MILTON — Bright purple plums, soft yellow pears, juicy red tomatoes and leafy green lettuce will soon bring color and bounty to Town property.
This month, Milton Recreation is launching two new spaces for gathering and education in Bombardier Park: a public orchard and community garden. Both spaces, when the time is right, will be free and open to the public.
“We're really excited,” Recreation Director Jennifer Tucker said. “I think once it gets going, it's going to be a really cool place to go in the community.”
In a few years, fruit and nuts for everyone
Earlier this month, 20 fruit and nut trees were planted behind the Bombardier Barn. The trees create a small orchard, which will be open to the public and be a space for educational programming.
The orchard includes pear, apple, plum, American chestnut and hazelnut trees as well as blueberry bushes, Milton’s Tree Warden Kris Dulmer said at the April 27 Conservation Commission meeting.
The trees are currently only five to six feet tall, and will not be ready for harvesting for another few years.
“Whenever the fruit is ripe, people can come and pick it. That’s the vision,” Dulmer said.
The idea for the orchard began nearly a year ago, when former Recreation Director Kym Duschesneau and Assistant Director Ben Nappi made a plan to add more trees to Bombardier Park.
When Jennifer Tucker, current recreation director, came on board, she and Nappi decided fruit trees would have more community benefit than shade trees. They approached Dulmer with the idea, and he was instantly on board, Tucker said during a May 11 interview with the Independent.
The orchard was in part made possible by a $1,000 Arbor Day grant from the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry program. Twenty communities received the grant, but Milton received $100 extra because UCF liked the project so much.
The trees were planted May 2 by Dulmer and a small group of volunteers. When the trees were picked up from the nursery, they were bareroot, meaning the roots were shaken free of soil. Bareroot plants are easy to store and to transport.
“It’s great to do it that way, because you can actually visualize the roots and make sure they're healthy and growing correctly, and then they plant well,” Dulmer said. “As long as you water them and do proper maintenance, they do very well.”
Milton Recreation will eventually design programming around the orchard. Seating will be added to the center, like a pergola or a gazebo, so it can function as an outdoor classroom, Tucker said.
Community garden pilot program launching this summer
In front of the new orchard, Milton Recreation is in the process of building a bare-bones community garden.
Beginning Wednesday, May 12, community members will be able to reserve a plot online for use this summer. Plots are free this year.
The 50 by 100-foot space is tilled and has water access, Tucker said. If gardeners need different soil or want to build a raised bed, they will need to do so themselves.
“This is the first year for the community garden, so we’re looking forward to learning from the feedback we receive,” Tucker said.