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Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Awards the Washington Park Association with $20,000 Grant to Build Learning Garden in Hudson Hounty's Washington Park!

By Debra Itailiano, Washington Park Association

March 24, 2011, Jersey City, NJ - Mory Thomas, president of the Washington Park Association, (WPA) received a letter today from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation confirming an award of $20,000 towards a Permaculture Learning Garden and Apprenticeship Program initiative that will be installed in Washington Park this year.  The garden represents the next phase in the WPA’s planting, permaculture and education initiatives. It will serve as a demonstration garden to be replicated in other parks and gardens throughout Jersey City, Union City and the entire County.

“We are particularly impressed by the urban agenda in Jersey City and the array of partners you have helped assemble for this inaugural project,” the Dodge Foundation CEO, Christopher J. Dagget, states in the letter, referring to the partnership of stake holders including the WPA, Green Collar futures, the Hudson County Parks Department and the Jersey City Planning Department that worked together to craft the opportunity to land the program in Washington Park as a demonstration project.  The WPA plans to work with these and more partners to develop future urban agriculture and sustainability programs.

The WPA will be expanding upon previous activities around its Permaculture initiative in the park by building and maintaining a Permaculture Learning Garden. In collaboration with its various partners, extended hour learning opportunities benefiting students and teachers as well as all other members of the park community will be offered.  Additionally, an apprencticeship program will serve to train and graduate apprentices with skill sets around urban agriculture and community garden stewardship. The intent of this demonstration project, the first under the WPA Education Alliance program, is to show the success of an urban agricultural apprenticeship program and how collaboration can affect greater success for the community.  As further noted by Debra Italiano, WPA Education Committee Chair / Chief Sustainability Advisor, "Related to this initiative, the Jersey City Board of Education passed a resolution in January to partner with the WPA Education Alliance on behalf of developing community sustainability related education opportunities. We look forward to hosting a series of creative learning experiences for teachers and students starting this season." This grant in combination with Hudson County Open Space Trust Grant will ensure the success of the 2011 phase of the learning garden.  According to Thomas, “This vote of confidence from the Dodge Foundation is crucial for Washington Park to continue the sustainability and education work we have begun. We hope it is a signal that other major foundations will recognize and support the efforts and commitment of citizens, community organizations in Jersey City and Hudson County to make our community greener and to move towards a more sustainable New Jersey”