Rutherford receives $25,000 grant for community garden
By Jennifer Vazquez / Reporter
RUTHERFORD (Sept. 16, 2010) — Apparently, money does grow on trees.
In the case of Rutherford, a garden has produced an award totaling $25,000. The environmental grant, from Sustainable Jersey, which was presented at borough hall amid the praise of town and state officials Tuesday, Sept. 14, was awarded to Rutherford in part because of the borough’s garden and its “green” efforts.
The grant, which is funded by Wal-Mart, was presented to the borough for its environmental work when it comes to the town garden.
“We’ve applied (for the grant) for the garden because we had really good movement on that and a lot of energy behind it in the community,” Rutherford Councilwoman Kim Birdsall said. “We felt that was a good project that we can then move forward and bring up to the next level and we were successful in getting the funding. We are thrilled.”
In order for municipalities to be considered for the award, they must meet certain qualifications, including having a “green” plan in action in their community and being certified by Sustainable Jersey.
“In order to be eligible, you need to be certified by Sustainable Jersey,” Birdsall said. “We had received our certification last year through the Green Team.”
There are certain actions that a community can take in order to be certified by the program, this according to the official Web site for Sustainable Jersey.
Roughly a year ago, Rutherford hosted a forum for the borough’s citizens. One of the things that came out of the event was the benefit of having a green team in the community, according to Birdsall.
“We formed the Green Team,” Birdsall said. “We worked very diligently to get certified. … The whole intention behind that was to show our commitment, as a community, to sustainability efforts and that also opened up the door for eligibility for different funding sources.”
Though Rutherford applied last year, the borough was not initially awarded the grant. However, this year, the municipality received $25,000, being one of only four municipalities in New Jersey to receive that total.
The money received will prove beneficial for the borough and will be put to good use. Some avenues being considered for the grant money include environmental testing, senior citizen gardening, installing rubber sidewalks that will allow for wheelchair access and “bringing the entire garden into fruition,” according to Birdsall.
“We are looking to bring the garden into the next level,” she said. “We would hopefully like to bring in different community organizations and utilizing it as a springboard for education in regards to composting, as well as other green initiatives and recycling. … Hopefully that will be enough funding, and we think that it will be, to finish up the garden throughout that area.”
Shade Tree and Green Team Committee member John Hughes further explained where the grant money will go.
“We hope to bring over senior citizens from the Kip Center for a gardening program,” he said. “We want to start a demonstration series in spring for exhibitions and to teach gardening projects.”
Produce grown in the garden will also be given to the local food pantry, according to Hughes.
With all the social benefits of this garden, there is also a financial side to the borough being environmentally conscious, according to Birdsall.
“There is a financial factor that goes along with this too, that I think would be important for us to move forward with,” Birdsall said. “When people recycle more it decreases the amount of tipping fees and ultimately it affects taxes. If we get more people to start composting and work toward that within the community, that would also decrease a significant amount of cost in regards to our waste management.”
The Rutherford garden, located on Erie Avenue, is also home to the Rutherford Shade Tree Nursery.
Hughes explained that the goal behind the formation of Rutherford’s Shade Tree Committee is correlated to the recent budget cuts since, now, “if a town is going to get more trees, the town has to buy them.”
The group aims at growing trees in the garden that, eventually, will be utilized as replacement trees within the borough, since it can be costly to buy fully grown trees and replace them throughout Rutherford.
The trees will be raised in the garden for five years before they are transplanted somewhere else in town, according to Hughes.
The plot of land utilized for the garden is borough property and the council had to grant permission for it to be used as a garden. The garden has been no cost to the borough, according to Birdsall.
Sustainable Jersey awarded a total of $220,000 in grants to municipal sustainability projects across the state. The 2010 Sustainable Jersey Small Grants Program, in partnership with Wal-Mart, awarded 10 $10,000 grants, four $25,000 and 20 $1,000 grants. The award is presented to municipalities who run sustainable projects in their community.
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