Tucked away in a little downtown green space in Newton are newly planted fruit trees and raised beds filled with seedlings. In a few years, Newton Assistant Superintendent of Park Operations Jamie Murphy expects this “edible orchard” will be flourishing with ripe fruits for the community.
Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries were planted in the eight raised beds on the property, which were fashioned from old railroad wood. When matured, the fruit trees will produce peaches, pears, cherries, apples and plums. Murphy said the city parks staff planted the orchard in April.
“It was kind of just something that I had thought about,” Murphy said. “We have a new community services department — which parks and recreation is encompassed in as well — so we’re trying to get some new ideas and some new things out there. I’ve seen other places (have orchards) and thought it was neat.”
The orchard also reduces food insecurity for the community.
Friends of Newton Parks pledged to pay half of the estimated $3,000 upfront costs and help fund it annually. The city’s share was paid from budgeted funds for grounds upkeep and improvements. Murphy said the parks department also wanted to revitalize the green space it inhabits.
Although the orchard is not located in an official city park, there are plans to install a future bike trail spur to Sunset Park and the nearby Legacy Plaza to run through the area.
Currently, parks staff don’t want any fruit to be picked this year. Murphy explained her department wants the orchard to be well-established before the community begins berry picking, which she said can begin as soon as next year. The fruit trees probably won’t be ready until 2023.
“A lot of people don’t have space in their homes to grow produce or fruit or anything like that, and a lot of people don’t have the time or the knowledge,” Murphy said. “We want people to come and know they’re getting something we’ve cared about and they can be apart of the parks system in that way.
“And I want to get people involved and out into the parks. Although this isn’t technically a park per se, if we can get them here maybe we can get them other places and we can start building some of these places that we want to start doing in the community. And it gets us out in the community more, too.”
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or firstname.lastname@example.org