Camas gets growing: community garden spots fill up

GoFundMe launches to help LiveWell Camas, business that kickstarted community garden project, recover from pandemic closures

LiveWell Camas, a movement and wellness studio, is pictured in downtown Camas on June 4, 2022. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

A sign outside a new community garden in downtown Camas shows various levels of community sponsorship for the garden on June 4, 2022. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

Camas’ new community garden is proving to be a hit with local gardening enthusiasts.

Less than two weeks after putting out a call for garden participants, 22 of the garden’s 27 plots are spoken for, with the remaining five plots reserved for local families of middle- and high-schoolers taking part in a summer gardening camp.

Located on a city-owned lot on Northeast Fifth Avenue in the city’s historic downtown, the garden kicked off in 2021 thanks to a $3,000 Main Street American “At Your Side” grant secured by Jacquie Hill, owner of LiveWell Camas, a movement and wellness studio also located in downtown Camas, who wanted to provide a space in the city’s historic downtown where “neighbors can come together and spark social change at a local level.”

Community gardens, Hill added, “create equitable opportunities to access fresh food, helping to build and restore health, promote healthier eating habits, and stewardship of the land and environment around us. Through the hard work and connection to nature, community garden spaces strengthen communities one plant at a time.”

Hill launched a nonprofit, EatWell Camas, and partnered with the city of Camas to build the garden on the city’s 50-foot by 100-foot vacant lot on Northeast Fifth Avenue between Franklin and Garfield streets, about half a block north of the Camas Public Library.

The EatWell board of directors and volunteers from the LiveWell staff will manage the garden and maintain the site during the off season. Community gardeners will tend their individual plots during the gardening seasons, which will typically start in March of each year and end in December.

Gardeners will need to reapply each year for a bed in the community garden.

“The goal of this community garden project is to create equitable opportunities for food access, education and community space in the downtown area of Camas,” according to the EatWell Camas’ garden information website at eatwellc amas.com/projects.

Garden organizers hope to make the project more sustainable by partnering with Clark County master gardeners to establish easy-t0-maintain composting sites, being pesticide-free, using gardening techniques that call for less watering and more natural ways of growing food, according to the EatWell site, “using growing practices that will help to attract beneficial insects, bees and butterflies.”

For more information about the community garden, visit eatwellcamas.com/projects.

‘Save LiveWell Camas’ GoFundMe hopes to raise $20K

Hill, of LiveWell Camas, recently launched a community fundraiser through the GoFundMe crowdsourcing site to help the downtown Camas movement and wellness studio recover from COVID-19 pandemic related closures and restrictions.

“The last two years have been a doozy for small businesses,” Hill wrote on the GoFundMe site. “Between March 2020 and March 2021 we were closed for in-person classes, workshops and events for a total of 9.5 months. We did our best to continue holding space for our community through limited online classes, park classes when the weather allowed, and limited space for in-person classes as soon as possible. But 9.5 months is a long time, and the ripple effect of that is still being felt.”

Hill, who helped staff a skateboarding park information booth during the city of Camas’ June 4 Camtown Youth Festival at Crown Park, said then that her studio was starting to regain students seeking in-person classes, but had not yet recovered from the pandemic.

“We are still not up to the level we were before the pandemic,” Hill said, “and we still owe back rent from 2020 and 2021.”

The GoFundMe is seeking to raise $20,000 to help pay back rent, cover employee and utility costs, establish a new community workspace and, as Hill wrote on the fundraising site, “continue to support our community in all of the ways that we do.”

“The space is becoming something really special,” Hill added. “More special than it already was. We are gathering our community one by one and creating opportunities and holding space for folks in underrepresented communities. It is happening … but the recovery and growth is slow.”

Hill said launching the GoFundMe was “the most difficult thing” she has ever had to do.

“I love this space so very much,” she stated on the GoFundMe site. “It is my very heart and soul realized, and I do not want to lose it.”

As of June 7, the GoFundMe had raised $3,350. To donate to the “Save LiveWell Camas” fundraiser, visit gofundme.com/f/save-livewell-camas.