Neighborhood pride grows with Lafayette’s public gardens

Tucked off to the side of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church is a fledgling community garden that will soon be home to a bountiful harvest of community-grown vegetables for the McComb-Veazey neighborhood.

It will join another garden that took shape in the nearby Freetown-Port Rico neighborhood, both done as part of a Lafayette Consolidated Government program to foster public gardens where neighborhood residents can grow their own food.

“Each garden is unique and seen as a neighborhood catalyst project to enhance food access, beautification and community pride,” said Emily Neustrom, LCG community garden planner.

The idea for the McComb-Veazey garden came from the community’s coterie, a term LCG uses for resident-led planning groups in different neighborhoods.

“We want to bring everyone out to meet their neighbors,” said Tina Shelvin, McComb-Veazey coterie vice chairwoman. “It’s about meeting the people who live in your neighborhood and seeing what you can do together.”

There will be a garden section specifically for the homeless to pick food, a section for coterie members and a section open to the public.

“We welcome everybody with open arms,” Shelvin said. “Anybody and everybody can come and use the garden.”

The Freetown-Port Rico garden was completed Aug. 9 with the help of community members, LCG and students from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s SOUL Camp extended freshman orientation program.

The Freetown-Port Rico coterie received a $1,500 grant from the Freetown Commission and raised funds online to build its garden.

The Freetown garden will be the first phase in building a linear park along Garfield Street, which will include a walking path, seating and the community garden.

As for the future of the McComb-Veazey garden, the coterie plans to build a couple of smaller gardens for families to rent out to grow its own food.

The coterie also applied for another grant that could give the garden a greenhouse and gazebo.

The main goal, Shelvin said, is to put together projects to bring the community closer.

“It’s a community garden; we want the community to come out and engage the garden and grow things in it,” Shelvin said.

Shelvin said her coterie is also planning a farmers market, heritage signs and a pocket park in the namesake of zydeco legend Clifton Chenier.

“I’m excited that it’s getting accomplished,” McComb-Veazey coterie member Raychelle Nelson said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”