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St. Paul Park Parks and Recreation Commission member Deb Tilson helps dig post holes for raised garden beds as part of the city's community garden groundbreaking on Saturday morning behind St. Paul Park City Hall. Bulletin photo by Jon Avise

A community garden sprouts in St. Paul Park

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Where volunteers dug into the hard, rocky soil behind St. Paul Park City Hall, Jennifer Cheesman sees a space ripe for a new community asset to grow.

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St. Paul Park broke ground Saturday on its first community garden, joining a growing list of metro cities that offer plots for residents to put their green thumbs to use.

"Once people see what we've got going on here there will be a natural interest," Cheesman, a City Council member, said while she took a break from helping dig holes to anchor the garden's 10 raised soil beds. "We're really, really pumped about it."

Cheesman, a former Parks and Recreation Commission chair, was joined by commission members and local volunteers for the Saturday morning event months in the making. Cheesman first proposed the idea two years ago and revived it early this year.

She cited Newport's successful community garden run by community group Newport on the Move that is now approaching the end of its second season as an inspiration and guide for garden enthusiasts in neighboring St. Paul Park.

"If Newport can do it, we can do it," she said. With more than $1,000 in donations, the city was able to launch the garden without using any city funds, a goal of the parks commission. Residents can rent a garden plot by filling out an application at City Hall and then get to growing when the snow melts next spring. Plots will cost $20.

"We wanted to do it right," Cheesman said. With the garden, she added, "you're teaching, you're inspiring, you're growing."

At a time when the source of food and how it's grown is increasingly a concern, she said, St. Paul Park's community garden is a chance to share a passion for gardening with others.

"When you have a group of people who love to garden, it's not just us," Cheesman said, "it pushes the enthusiasm to others."

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