The purpose of this letter is to attempt to clarify the ongoing situation involving the Saratoga Community Garden and the Town of Saratoga. Let me begin by being very clear, it is my personal belief that we are extremely lucky to have such an asset in our community. A place where we can gather and share ideas, techniques and local knowledge about how to reap the bounties our short and challenging growing season can provide. The hours and hard work of local volunteers should not go unnoticed, a big thanks to them for creating such a progressive asset. While I do not have a plot in the garden, I have benefitted in learning about different crops, when to plant ... in my own gardening efforts (thanks Cindy for the bok choy tips). I drive past the garden every day and it gives me a sense of pride that our community members have created something that makes our town more beautiful.
My intent, and that of the other Town Council Members, has always been to support the garden and give it every opportunity to grow and be sustainable for years to come. There has never been any conversation, in public or behind the scenes that would result in abandoning the facility. While recent articles have portrayed the Town Council, me in particular, to be in opposition to the garden, this editorializing could not be further from the truth.
The heart of the question is... Is there a better way to structure the management of our garden? We are blessed with several other integral community facility assets in Saratoga and the Upper North Platte River Valley that add to the quality of life for all residents. The Platte Valley Community Center and the Platte Valley Medical Clinic are two shining examples of partnerships between our local government and private organizations. Both are public facilities wholly owned by government entities but supported by local 501c(3) private non-profit entities ... namely the Platte Valley Community Center Foundation and the Corbett Medical Foundation. This relationship allows the local government to leverage its assets, a place to house the facilities, while capitalizing on the non-profit’s ability to raise and spend funds in a tax efficient manner without government oversight in order to continually improve the services provided and the fabric of our community. By establishing the organizational structure of these facilities in such a way it alleviates the financial burden and liability away from the local government so that scarce resources can be allocated elsewhere.
The question I ask myself is... Should the local government be the managing entity of aforementioned facilities. I think the answer is no, but instead play a support role in ensuring they are viable for generations to come. Such a structure could be beneficial to the situation in question, by forming a 501c(3) the fundraising efforts of our community garden have the opportunity to solicit donations from a wider array of community members and grantors. The Town of Saratoga has the assets, land and water, that can be donated (or leased for a nominal amount) to ensure the garden has a home. While we may have a different political philosophy on government’s role and how the citizen’s funds are allocated and accounted for, it is clear in my mind that a partnership in necessary to move forward.
I am saddened to see our local newspaper pit our community against each other in an effort to stir the pot. My comments have been portrayed as petty, and for that I apologize. The reality is we are a small community and perception is important to attracting visitors, new community members and businesses to our valley. While there are things that I have said that, when taken out of context of the overall discussion and conversation, make it look like I am against any progressive innovations in our town, that could not be further from the truth. I look forward to having an open and public discussion at the next Community Garden Board meeting (January 24th at Town Hall) so we can work together to chart a clear path moving forward.
Editor’s note: Any interested party is welcome to stop by the Saratoga Sun during regular hours and listen to our meeting tapes.
If you are unable to get to our office, the two council meeting audio files in question are available online.
The Dec. 20 meeting link is: https://soundcloud.com/user-405624317/saratoga-tc-dec202016
The Jan. 3 meeting link is: https://soundcloud.com/user-405624317/saratoga-tc-jan032017