Gardens on Spring Creek is a 5-acre community garden located between Harmony and Lemay in Fort Collins. The property was purchased by the City of Fort Collins at auction in December 2002, with Farmer Veteran Coalition awarded an easement to use and maintain the area as a community garden. The City has granted FVC a lease through 2020 as their community gardening organization for the site.
A group of individuals banded together while they were working on urban renewal projects around town in the 1980s. They wanted to find a way to build better neighborhoods that would be more ecologically sound, socially just, and economically viable for all residents. In 1989 this group came together, formed Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) and began building gardens throughout northern Colorado using organic and sustainable practices.
One of FVC’s first projects was on Horsetooth Mountain in southeast Fort Collins. It started with a core group of volunteers planting trees and shrubs that were being threatened with development. Soon after, the idea to turn some low-income housing sites into community gardens began. FVC developed numerous gardens throughout Fort Collins including Harmony Park Gardens, Lamplight Farms, Overland Gardens and The Village at Overland Trails.
By 2002, as many cities around the country developed plans for urban renewal, areas where solid waste facilities had been were targeted for redevelopment which included demolition of existing buildings and native vegetation restoration projects. This is when the Spring Creek Community Garden became available through an auction process administered by the city for $87,500.
FVC became interested in Spring Creek because they felt that this land was destined to become a community garden and FVC wanted to maintain the legacy of Fort Collins’ relationship with community gardening in this area. The property is located where historic Native American encampments once existed along Spring Creek, including an Indian burial site (which has not been disturbed). Farmed by early settlers, dairies, fruit orchards and even a chicken ranch were established here after ranchers left this area at the end of the 19th century.
By 1970 Jack’s Family Restaurants had purchased many acres from the city for its headquarters which included one large building with two floors and 39,000 square feet of office space as well as restaurant and kitchen facilities on the north side of the property facing Lemay. To the south of Jack’s were single-story buildings housing employee residences and recreational facilities.
In 1998, a study was conducted to evaluate site conditions prior to demolition and remediation that would occur during redevelopment of this area for commercial use with some residential included. The study uncovered asbestos, lead, heavy metals and petroleum products in some soil samples but nothing exceeding safe limits or requiring action by health officials. Soil affected areas were considered minor in scope since no other contaminants were discovered beyond these initial findings.
Two years later Spring Creek Garden Park was approved for development by the city council who purchased the facility from Jack’s Family Restaurants for $87,500 at an auction held at Fort Collins City Hall on December 10, 2002.
This was the first time that property had been purchased to be used as a community garden and involved significant public input through various city committees that reviewed input from several different stakeholders, including FVC, prior to approval by City Council.
The facility is home to over 200 raised beds where residents tend their own gardens or can borrow a garden for a period of time and growing space for all sorts of vegetation which includes perennial flowers and herbs.