Environmental Commission Rolls Out Initiatives to Engage Public in Sustainable Practices

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—At their January 20 meeting, the New Brunswick Environmental Commission and several allied city organizations announced a spate of 2015 initiatives meant to engage the community in sustainable practices and encourage the upkeep of public and open spaces in our area.

On the agenda was the unveiling of a plan that will allow residents to see how they can take advantage of the many community gardens which serve as a source of fresh produce for consumption by the public and other organizations dedicated to food security and assistance.

Culminating in an April 18 “garden tour” that will begin at the Unity Square Community Center at 5pm, the Commission as well as representatives from the New Brunswick Community Food Alliance, the New Brunswick Parks & Gardens Commission, the Green Team, and Elijah’s Promise Soup Kitchen are interested in showing the community of New Brunswick the potential for a green renaissance that lies within the oft-barren and unrealized space that one sees as their backyard.

The average Rutgers student renting a living space from a landlord in one of the city’s many student-dominated neighborhoods, but also those who live in the other wards and diverse demographic sections of the city at large, may not know that there are currently twelve community style gardens ranging from a few small beds to forty-two plots of vegetables and fruits as well as the city’s only “urban orchard” which can serve as an alternative to the produce shelves of your local supermarket.

To acquaint members of the community with these spaces, a guided tour and walkthrough will be given and a map designating the already used plots will be distributed.

Includec in the walking tour beginning at 81 Remsen Avenue will be gardens at Feaster Park, St. Isidore’s, Shiloh Garden & Apple Orchard, and Jim Landers Community Garden.

Environmental Commissioner Heather Fenyk noted that the tour will be "a fun way to celebrate our public open spaces, bring the community together, and welcome spring."

"It is an opportunity to distribute the Environmental Commission's new map of our parks and community gardens, and also a time for project partners to celebrate our collaboration and the hard work that made the map, and our gardens, possible."

Also on the meeting’s agenda was a plan to convert and make use of currently derelict planters and permaculture gardens situated in Buccleuch Park into a “pollinator’s garden,” which can serve as a source of the pollination process that is currently in jeopardy throughout our area and the environmental region at-large.

Currently, the existing parcels located within the parks are used to provide mulch and firewood to the community, but those were damaged during the hurricanes Irene and Sandy and remain neglected.  Pollinators are key to the continued survival of the region’s native flora.

However, there is the issue of a conflict between the presence of bees, a key factor in the pollination process but also a source of anxiety for some residents, especially those with children.

According to a representative from the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, the current policy if a call is received by the city in regards to the removal of a nuisance bee hive is to remove the threat in the most efficient and safe manner possible to ensure public safety.

Unfortunately for proponents of pollination, this often means the spraying of chemicals, which result in the destruction of hives and pollination centers.

Also proposed was a potential addition to the City’s master plan, decided on by Planning Board, which would contain language conducive to the continued preservation of and upkeep of such green-friendly practices such as supporting pollinators throughout the city.

By incorporating a sustainability and food policy element to the plan, which essentially is a governing document that spells out the planning vision of the city’s leadership, New Brunswick can move forward with future policies meant to enhance and upgrade what remains of the city’s potential to be responsive to the needs of its environment.

As we reported, the next Environmental Commission meeting is scheduled for February 17 at 7pm, on the top floor of City Hall at 78 Bayard Street.

Editor at New Brunswick Today | 732-993-9697 | editor@newbrunswicktoday.com

Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.