The exterior of Robert A. Lee Recreation Center in the space near the pool where the new educational gardens will be.
Residents have the opportunity to offer suggestions for the design of an outdoor edible classroom at one of Iowa City’s busiest intersections. Iowa City Parks and Recreation and Backyard Abundance will host a community visioning event from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 6 at the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center Social Hall, 220 S. Gilbert Street. Participants will provide design ideas for maximizing the usefulness of the space on the south side of the building, adjacent to the pool.

The session is free and all interested community members are encouraged to attend. Specific invitations have been extended to local organizations that are expected to use the space, along with experts on local food, classroom design, natural playscapes, education and community artwork. Snacks will be provided and attendees will receive vouchers for a free plant at the Backyard Abundance plant sale that will take place on Saturday, April 30.

The classroom will provide long-term benefits to Iowa City residents. The educational space will offer individuals and organizations a place to teach people about the growth of sustainable local foods and will serve as a living laboratory to enhance existing environmental and science programs. Herbs and produce grown there will benefit public health by providing free, nutritious options for passersby and by giving them a chance to try new foods. Ecologically sound practices will be utilized so that the project helps rehabilitate our local ecosystems and mitigates the impacts of climate change associated with modern agricultural production. Permanent educational signs will be installed to increase public awareness of how these crops grow, appear and taste.

Funding for this project comes from a $24,000 Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Specialty Crop Block Grant awarded to Iowa City Parks and Recreation and Backyard Abundance. The grant program is meant to encourage growers to diversify their crops and to provide residents with locally grown fruits, nuts and vegetables.

After the classroom designs are established, the community can participate in follow-up learning events that establish the classroom and celebrate its creation.

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Date of publication

Thursday, February 04, 2016