Fresh off the tree apples, pears and peaches and fresh off the vine blackberries, raspberries and strawberries are coming to Abilene.
But not at the local markets.
Residents will have to pick them themselves.
A community orchard, with official approval by the Abilene City Commission at its regular 4 p.m. meeting Monday in the Abilene Public Library, is being established.
“The orchard will be a true community orchard,” Tony Whitehair, ag and natural resources agent with K-State Research and Extension told the Abilene City Commission at a study session Tuesday. “It will be open to anyone to come and harvest.
“We envision this an opportunity to educate those that would be interested in planting their own fruit trees to show them that this can be done,” he said. “And working with our family consumer science agent about the benefits of eating fresh produce, ways you can preserve it to use at a later time.”
He said the trees would be fruit bearing right away.
“We will bring in some trees that have some size to them with six to 10 pieces of fruit to start out with,” he said. “It’s going to be five to seven years before they are producing quite a bit.”
The proposed location for the orchard is north of the Abilene community gardens just northeast of the swimming pool.
Whitehair said the orchard location will require the removal of over-matured and damaged trees in the area and replacing them with new fruit trees.
“Not only will it help provide fruit for the community but also will help beautify the park in that area,” Whitehair said.
City Manager Jane Foltz said some trees were removed when the community garden was established.
“We have a couple volunteers that have helped in the garden that have shown an interest in helping get this started and help maintain it,” he said. “There is water there.”
Whitehair said the $14,225 funding is available through Blue Cross Blue Shield Pathways grant.
“My mindset was that if we didn’t have the money, it wasn’t worth bringing to your attention,” Whitehair said.
Past grants by BCBS Pathways established community gardens in Solomon and Chapman and a new sidewalk on Vine Street.
Commissioner Tim Shafer asked if the orchard would operate like the community garden where residents would plant their own trees.
Whitehair said the orchard of between 8 and 10 fruit trees would be established, pruned and maintained by himself, the K-State Research Master Gardener group which is in the process of being established and staffed with the Abilene Parks and Recreation Department.
“The way the Master Gardener program works is that, in exchange for education for people that are interested, they help us with volunteers somewhere between 30 to 40 hours a year,” Whitehair said. “Typically, they have one big project they work on a year.”
Grant funding includes removal of current trees; fruit trees, shrubs and flowers; tools and supplies and chemicals.
Whitehair said research is still being done in the horticulture department at Kansas State University on what trees and shrubs would best tolerate growing conditions and be resistant to disease.
Abilene city engineer Mark Bachamp said when resurfaced, 14th Street from Buckeye Avenue to Vine Street would be three lanes with the inside lane a turning lane, similar to East First Street.
“We’re ready to get moving on the design,” he said. “Then figure out the cost.”
That design would also include pedestrian walks and crosswalks.
Bachamp said an October study showed 4,400 vehicles drive in that area per day.
The commission will also look at an agreement with the city of Abilene and the school district to use Eisenhower Elementary School tornado shelters school is not in session.
In the past the basement of the Dickinson County Courthouse acted as a storm shelter.
“The courthouse is not open to the public and will not be any time soon,” said Abilene Police Chief Mike Mohn.
Currently a new jail is being constructed which will be followed by a renovation of the current courthouse.
The shelter location will be closed during the school day from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and when after-school and activity events are being held.
The agreement, which has been approved by the Abilene School Board, gives the city permission to open the tornado shelters.
Contact Tim Horan at email@example.com.