The Printers Place Center at the intersection of Airport Road and Circle Drive is home to at least three food pantries. The Chinook Center, Agape Food Pantry and Voces Unidas all conduct some kind of food share operation out of the old strip mall in K-Land.
This spring, the Colorado Springs Children’s Museum opened their doors in the shopping center as well. It seemed, to some of the activists who visit the area often, a perfect spot for a community garden. “We were thinking about ways to start modeling practices which would assist in combating food insecurity,” said Joe Mangels of the Democratic Socialists of America. “Providing a space where people could put in whatever amount of work they were willing to contribute, and be able to support the three food pantries that are all right here.”
In early May, Mangels and others installed planting beds, brought in soil and planted seeds.
“We’ve got beans, bell peppers, asparagus, kale, a bunch of squash,” he said. “It’s been a team effort from a lot of people, contributing time, effort, dirt.”
Unfortunately, the garden was on private property and later in the summer, the property managers told Mangels and others at the Chinook Center that it would have to go. “They said it’s private property and the owners don’t want a garden on their land,” said Jon Christiansen of the Chinook Center. “They prefer it just be weeds, I guess. You’re not doing anything with it. The land has been sitting vacant for 40 years, since this place was built and nobody is doing anything with it. They don’t take care of the properties. The parking lot is crumbling; there’s no striping on the roads; there’s potholes all over the place,;the place is weeds. They don’t seem to care that much about the property until a garden is there.”
For Christiansen, having a garden co-located with their community hub was always a goal. “When we first moved into the Chinook Center, Monycka Snowbird was like, ‘We should do a community garden!’” He recalled. “She was pointing out that there were no community gardens owned or controlled by people of color in Colorado Springs, so since day one we’ve talking about a community garden somewhere on this block. There’s nothing as far as I know in K-Land.”
According to Kim Melchor, lead communications specialist for Colorado Springs, “Community gardens are permitted in Colorado Springs and long as code requirements aren’t being infringed upon, like removing parking areas for a garden where those parking stalls were required by code.”
Many community gardens in Colorado Springs, such as the gardens at Deerfield Hills and Hillside Parks, are managed by community center programs. “There are also community gardens located at Vermijo Park, Old Farm and Shooks Run,” said Melchor.
Prior to 2020, community gardens were managed by a nonprofit, Pikes Peak Urban Gardeners. “However, that group disbanded in late 2020, so this program is currently being restructuring this program while management is happening at the property,” noted Melchor.
There is hope for aspiring and community-minded green thumbs, however. Instead of planting on private property and hoping no one notices, residents can contact the Colorado Springs Office of Sustainability “If there is interest in starting one, residents may contact the Office of Sustainability to go over the space and logistics, and then we would connect them with the appropriate property manager,” said Melchor. “Our office works with the property managers involved with the gardens to provide assistance and resources to improve their program, while the property managers handle the day-to-day activities like assigning plots and tool inventory. The Office of Sustainability recently took over this program and they are working to bolster the program by creating a web page in the future with COS public garden resources and contact information, as well as apply for grants to better support this program. Ideally, we would work closely with a group like Pikes Peak Urban Gardeners since our office does not have the capacity to manage every garden at this time.”
Though the property manager removed the wooden bed supports and hail netting around the garden at Printers Place, the plants were still there as of press time.