Possible Sale of Town Land Threatens Berkeley Springs Community Garden

The new community garden that has been thriving in the heart of Berkeley Springs is being threatened by the possible sale of the garden plot by the Town of Bath to the Warm Springs Public Service District (PSD).

Tomorrow night — June 16 at 5:30 pm — the Town of Bath Town Council is scheduled to take up the possible sale of the lot to the PSD.

The PSD runs the wastewater water treatment facility for the Town of Bath and parts of Morgan County, including for the industrial park at the south end of the county.

Currently, the PSD rents space in the Town Hall — but it now plans on adding new employees and is looking for more space — and the obvious spot to put up a building is right next to Town Hall — where the community garden is located.

“We’ve been in the same building here for 35 years,” said PSD manager Scott Crunkleton. “We are going to have to put in another full time employee. And now we are completely out of room here.”

Crunkleton said that the PSD has been looking at various places around town to move to and that if they had cut the deal last year with the Town of Bath on the property next door, it wouldn’t have been an issue.

“We did not know that this community garden was going to be a lifetime thing,” Crunkleton said.

He suggested that perhaps the garden could be moved to the Train Depot property.

But Lee Barron says that the garden is perfect where it is right now.

Barron, along with Joyce Morningstar, spearheaded the effort to convert the property — which has not been used for 30 years — into a source of fresh, free food for the community.

Barron said he was looking for a place that would be good for composting, but the land next to the Town Hall was already fertile.

“You can go down 36 inches without any compacting,” Barron said. “It’s the most fertile soil in Morgan County because it sits at the base of the mountain and there is runoff that comes down into the property.”

“It’s just a prime spot for this garden,” Barron said.

The garden is being tended by community volunteers and produce is free for all.

In its first year, the garden has peas, sweet potatoes, beets, amaranthe, peas, strawberries, cucumbers, cabbage,  cauliflower, brussel sprouts, broccoli, tomatoes, squash and melons.

“It’s an open salad bar — free to the community,” Barron said.

The current Town of Bath Council consists of five members —  Kenny Easton, Scott Merki, Andrew Swaim, Elizabeth Skinner and Rick Weber.

If the vote comes up tomorrow, those five and the Town Recorder — James Kidwell — will be eligible to vote. A tie vote would be broken by the outgoing Mayor — Susan Webster.

Earlier this year, the Town appointed Easton, Swaim and Skinner to a special committee to research the issue of selling the land to the PSD.

Swaim said that the consensus of the committee is to not sell the land and to let the community garden stay where it is.

“If I were a betting man, I would bet that the council would move to let the garden stay where it is and not sell the property,” Swaim said.

Citizens interested in speaking in favor of the community garden should arrive by 5:30. Swaim thinks that a decision might be made by 6 pm.


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