Mirrormont residents draw line about garden

April 13, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

A 105-by-65-foot patch of land has become disputed turf for residents of the Mirrormont neighborhood. When residents applied for a $10,000 county grant to turn the parcel into a neighborhood vegetable garden, the president of the Mirrormont Community Association resigned in protest.

Brian Laughlin, who stepped down as association president April 2, said the project would be an imprudent use of tax dollars since the county faces a $93 million budget gap.

“I don’t think this is the right time to be spending that kind of money on a private endeavor,” he said.

His neighbors said the project would foster community spirit and supply residents with local produce.

“This is the best investment we can make, by growing food in the neighborhood,” said Linda Jean Shepherd, a proponent of the proposed garden.

The garden, known as a pea patch, would be funded through the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks. Shepherd said Mirrormont is a good candidate for a pea patch, because the trees that drew many residents to the neighborhood shade lots and make gardening difficult.

“I value the trees too much to cut them down to grow lettuce,” Shepherd said.

Laughlin said interest in the project is not widespread in the community, which has about 600 households. 

“I don’t think that 14 people out of 600 is what you call a community project,” he said.

Shepherd said the grant application process would weed out wasteful projects. She said about 20 residents expressed interest in the project. Gardeners would also be required to contribute a minimum number of volunteer hours to the pea patch.

She said she envisions the pea patch as a way to knit the community together through discussions about the environment and potluck dinners supplied with ingredients from the garden. 

Laughlin said his opposition to the pea patch is based in part on an earlier project funded by a county grant. Officials awarded the Mirrormont Community Association a $100,000 grant four years ago to establish a neighborhood park. Laughlin said Mirrormont Park is underutilized.

County Community Partnership Grants Coordinator T.J. Davis could not be reached for comment.

Residents began work at the pea patch site as they waited to hear about the status of the grant. They gathered April 11 to clear invasive Himalayan blackberry bushes at the site.

Yvette Cardozo moved to Mirrormont 22 years ago from Florida. She said she looks forward to using a corner of the pea patch to grow heirloom tomatoes. When she attempted to grow tomatoes on her shady, tree-lined lot a few years back, she dragged a pot around her deck to ensure the tomatoes got enough sunlight. But the results were “like Styrofoam,” she said.

She said the garden would be a great way to get the community together for those who wish to take part.

Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

*This report contains corrected information.

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3 Responses to “Mirrormont residents draw line about garden”

  1. Windsor Lewis-Gloy on April 14th, 2009 9:24 am

    This article fails to mention if the money in question is available for the entire county or if it’s a set-aside for the Mirrormont community. (Much the way Bellevue had neighborhood specific grants.) It also fails to mention why the money is still available despite the $93M budget shortfall. (That level detail would be very interesting.)

    I’m of two minds on this: There’s certainly nothing wrong with applying for a county grant. My grandmother would say, “if you don’t ask, you don’t get”. Once an application is submitted it’s up to the county to determine whether or not the project is worthwhile. On the other hand, a 10′ x 20′ garden patch is not so large that the interested neighbors couldn’t tackle the job themselves. (i.e. via their own labor or pooled funds, which it sounds like they have started to.)

    My guess is that the county money will be granted to some project, regardless of the size of the budget gap. The gardening neighbors of Mirrormont should take the higher road by completing all the work themselves and not complain bitterly if another project is selected over theirs. The protest resignation by Mr. Laughlin, while understandable, seems a little over the top. At least now Mr. Laughlin will have more time to himself, because HOA work is tireless and never ending.

  2. Brett in Mirrormont on April 16th, 2009 6:44 pm

    The article above does not represent the sentiment of the Mirrormont Community Association. Mr. Laughlin quit his position on the board not merely over this issue but rather due to multiple differences having arisen between his personal agenda and the better good of the community.
    The funds for the pea patch come from a King County grant program intended to help community projects, and is available to applicants who apply for a specific project. An application was made and approved by the county. The funds do not take away from some other use for the community.
    The Mirrormont Park –hardly under-utilized–was developed in a similar manner; through a grant in exchange for land. All of the manual labor is done by volunteers who live in the neighborhood…well, with one glaring exception of residents.
    It’s unfortunate that this article was presented in such a negative light. So far, Mr. Laughlin is the only one to raise opposition to this project. However, I commend his realization that relieving himself as president reflects the general consensus of the community.

  3. Donald E King on March 3rd, 2012 7:31 pm

    What does ” All of the manual labor is done by volunteers who live in the neighborhood…well, with one glaring exception of residents.” mean?

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