The Powell City Council wasted no time in responding to a series of thefts from the Powell Community Garden at Veterans Park last month.
The council voted at its Monday meeting to fund three signs at the garden’s gates stating that its produce is not free for the taking. The vote came after council members heard concerns from Patty Paulsen, the residential supervisor at Big Horn Enterprises, which helps oversee the garden.
Paulsen told the council that growing produce at the site has been therapeutic for Big Horn Enterprises’ clients, many of whom are physically and/or mentally disabled.
“The garden is a place for our participants to go and be treated like any member of the community,” Paulsen said. In the community garden, “they are not a man or a woman in a wheelchair or a crazy person who talks to themselves,” she said. “The comment that I’ve heard from them the most is that, ‘We go there and we are just people.’”
Paulsen related two success stories: One was a client who struggles with controlling their temper — including punching walls in anger — who learned patience and tolerance from working in the garden. Meanwhile, working in the garden helped a client with Huntington’s Disease come out of a self-imposed isolation.
Paulsen said the thefts, which occurred over a three-day span from Sept. 18-20, were “very disheartening,” as they wiped out much of the gardeners’ labors for the year, leaving them with little to show for their efforts.
“What happened to people respecting other people’s boundaries?” Paulsen said.
Powell Mayor John Wetzel told Paulsen that he was appreciative of the work she had done with the community garden and with her clients in the garden. He was very supportive of funding the signage.
“I don’t speak for the whole council, but I speak for myself — I think signing the park would be fairly easy for us to do,” Wetzel said.
Some on the council were open to going further than posting signage, including Councilman Jim Hillberry.
“I was just quickly thinking here that maybe as we get to the point that [the] plants are becoming mature and fruit is ready to take, maybe [we can] work out something that they can put a lock on those gates so that they won’t have people stealing or taking produce,” Hillberry said.
Councilman Scott Mangold echoed Hillberry’s sentiments, pointing to August as a potential time to lock the garden’s gates to deter thieves.
“I sort of feel both ways about locking something up on city property,” Mangold said. “But we do lock up the warming hut and we do lock up the concession stand at the softball field — and the bathrooms — so there are some valuable things we do lock up in the city. I think once the crops start coming in and developing, I think there is value and [it might be a good] idea to lock it up.”
While Paulsen mentioned the possibility of locking up the garden as harvestime approached, she said she preferred to just post signs.
“We don’t want to lock it up,” Paulsen said. “We understand it’s a public park, but we have put a lot of time into Veterans Park and we’ve done a lot in maintaining Veterans Park, and we just want to see it go and flourish — something positive in town.”