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Celebration set downtown at The Oasis

News-Examiner

When spring rolled around, the vacant lot on Central Avenue across from City Hall was, well, empty. Like many places where a building is missing, rocks and concrete fragments covered the ground in an area between two walls.

On Thursday night, a group of people will celebrate the hard work that has turned it into a community garden and green space in just a few months.

Packets of garden seeds will be handed out to those attending the dedication of The Oasis, as the lot is now known. They are meant to reinforce one of the visions that motivated people to work together on The Oasis: Planting seeds for a healthier community.

The once-empty lot took the combined vision and efforts of many, Sharon McQueen, director of Discover Connersville, said. Along with celebrating what’s been done so far, Thursday’s two-hour event will also be used to reveal what’s coming next, she said.

That organization, which concentrates on improving the downtown, and Purdue Extension’s Nutrition Education Program and Fayette County Community Voices took on the tasks of turning the vision into reality. They secured permission from the lot owners, Jimmy and Zola Bunzendahl, to use the property. They obtained funding from the Fayette Community Foundation. They built raised garden beds in wooden frames. They put up fencing, they planted, they weeded, they watered and trimmed. 

Along the way, other groups volunteered, including at least one 4-H club and the 4-H junior leaders, a group from Community Christian School and another group from Connersville High School.

Thursday, they’ve all been invited to celebrate with the community, starting at 5:30 p.m. with a ribbon-cutting by the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce. Mayor Harold Gordon will talk. There will be music. Food will be the kinds of snacks that can be expected from a vegetable garden, McQueen said, and perhaps might include pieces of one of the watermelons that has been ripening in The Oasis.

Along with the melon, the vacant lot has produced cucumbers, kale, Swiss chard, canteloupe, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, zucchini and squash, herbs and green beans. All the hard work has led to harvesting, with some of the produce being placed in Blessing Boxes where local people can take what they need.

“This is a major step in revitalizing the downtown,” McQueen said. “It is a green space and a place where people can see the kinds of things they can do in just a small area.”