JAY-Members of the Jay Town Board voted at their regular meeting June 9 to remove the Upper Jay dam, allow a community garden to use town property, and to apply for a grant to assist the creation of the garden.
The dam, located on Crowningshield Road, was built in 1923, according to Carol Treadwell, executive director of the Ausable River Association. While there are a number of hurdles to removing it, including a permit process and a grant search, she guessed the dam would be gone within a year.
Located on Lewis Brook, which flows into the East Branch of the Ausable River, the dam is no longer used and in deteriorating condition, said Chris Garrow, town superintendent of highways and director of the department of public works. It will not be replaced.
In the past, the dam was used to create an open reservoir from which the town could access drinking water and fill its fire hydrants. But about five years ago, Garrow said, the town of Jay switched over to a system in which water was taken from wells.
Removing the dam will allow fish to pass through the blocked section of the brook. The dam gates could not simply be opened, Garrow said, because sediment would filter into nearby streams and rivers. Instead, water will be pumped from one side to the other and the sediment will be removed.
The community garden will be located near the basketball courts in the Grove area in Au Sable Forks. Fred Balzac, an organizer of the project, was authorized to apply for an up-to-$5,000 public health grant on behalf of the town of Jay. Supervisor Randy Douglas and Essex County Planner Mike Mascarenas were expected to review his application, which had to be submitted before June 17.
The community garden project grew out of an April 6 meeting at Wells Memorial Library, Balzac said. About 15 people attended, including Douglas, to discuss rising food and gas prices.
"I think gardening is a great activity," Balzac said. "Growing your own food is not only a healthy practice, it's a fulfilling practice."
Town officials are backing the community garden project.
"As government leaders, we love community involvement," Supervisor Douglas said, adding that any offsetting of food prices is just an added bonus.
The grant Balzac is applying for on behalf of the town is from Essex County Public Health Department. This money comes from a "Creating Healthy Places" grant that ECPHD applied for and received from New York state in the fall of 2010, according to Balzac. The money can be used to fund seven to 10 proposals that support healthy nutrition, physical activity and a sustainable environment.
Community gardens cost on average $1,000-$4,000 to create, Balzac said. Potential costs of the Jay garden include fencing, tools, and a tool shed.
Vegetables at the garden will primarily be grown for the consumption of the growers, though Balzac said he'd love to see some of the produce donated to local food pantries. Growers will likely have to pay a nominal fee to raise plants for the year. All garden policies will need to be approved by the town of Jay.
The town will learn whether their application has been approved by June 30, Balzac said. He said it was his goal that people could begin growing plants this calendar year, but was unsure if it was possible.