Rating the Suburbs 2012: For the Eco-Minded

A community garden brings residents together for more than just vegetables.

Avon Lake

A layer of black topsoil lies waiting in anticipation.

The half-acre near Avon Lake's Troy Intermediate School will be home to a 130-plot community garden filled with radishes, carrots, tomatoes and other vegetables by summer.

Wood chips will be spread out to form winding walkways through the garden, while raised plots will be handicapped accessible. A 7-foot fence will keep out deer and other animals.

All these details are important to community garden co-chairman Dale Cracas and the others who have been working for years to bring this idea of a community garden to fruition.

"My wife and I have had a garden for most of our married life," says Cracas, who moved to Avon Lake for a teaching job in 1970. "I used to make my own bread-and-butter pickles. But you can't keep the deer out of your backyard, so the community garden will enable us to [do that]."

Forty years ago, Avon Lake still had grape vineyards growing next to football fields and several large farms growing corn and soybeans. There was also an orchard, but that is long gone.

While the housing tracts and golf courses have absorbed most of the farms, Avon Lake still appeals to outdoor enthusiasts with its 14 parks, lake access with fishing pier and boat launch, and a 2-year-old, $4.2 million aquatic center with two giant water slides, diving boards, a spray ground and lazy river.

Cracas, who spends two to three hours each day working on the garden, says it's for more than those with a green thumb. He hopes to donate some of the fruits of his labor to the local community resource center to help feed the needy. Several of the 4-by-12-foot plots, which sold for $25, have been reserved for the highly rated Avon Lake schools to use for hands-on learning and to raise food for the cafeteria.

Then Cracas points across the garden to a grove of trees. "We could put in picnic tables and barbecues over there," he says. "It's just one of those things where you don't just go to the community garden to garden. It's a social thing, too."

Neighborhood Hot Spot

"It's a very family-friendly neighborhood and has a combination of single-family homes and condos," says Howard Hanna's Bev Montgomery of the Regetta Drive and Anchors Weigh neighborhood. "They have tennis courts and a pool, so it's a very active and fun community."

What You Get

Anchors weigh

Asking price: $499,900

Selling price: $430,000

Square feet: 3,456

No. of bedrooms: 4

No. of bathrooms: 4

Time on the market: 58 days

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