COEUR d'ALENE — When Teri McKenzie decided to tap into Coeur d'Alene's community garden scene, she had no idea how positive the response would be.
"The interest is clear," she said Tuesday. "I feel like we're really onto something and people are really excited."
McKenzie is the founder and executive director of the Inland Northwest Food Network, a nonprofit dedicated to growing a healthy, fair, sustainable and accessible regional food system by connecting people, places, food and farms.
The Inland Northwest Food Network and the city of Coeur d'Alene Planning Department are hosting a community gardens public planning meeting Friday to gauge the public's interest in community gardens and brainstorm ideas about how to implement a strategy.
"I think there's a lot of people who really love the idea of being able to garden but don't have access to land," McKenzie said. "There's something about doing it in a community format where you can learn from each other."
McKenzie said studies show that community gardens do much more than serve as a place to grow food — they're also a place to grow community, teach children and get to know your neighbors.
"It completely transforms the neighborhood on so many levels," she said.
The concept of introducing more community gardens in Coeur d'Alene stems from the Coeur d'Alene 2030 project. McKenzie said it was identified in the Vision 2030 plan as a focus for the community. Several models will be presented at the meeting.
"This is really a first step," she said. "There are many ways community gardens can happen."
City of Coeur d'Alene community planning director Hilary Anderson said community gardens are known to revitalize neighborhoods. While the city has no locations planned yet, Anderson said ideally the gardens will be placed in high-traffic, highly visible areas.
"I think it's a great asset for the community," she said. "Not only having the local food, but also having a sense of local community."
The community gardens public planning meeting will be held from 2-4 p.m. Friday at the Coeur d'Alene Public Library, 702 E. Front St.. It is free and open to the public.