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York's Royal Square secret garden will show off bounty Saturday

DAVID WEISSMAN
YorkDispatch


On the 100 block of East King Street in downtown York, in the alley next to the HIVE artspace, past some construction work and behind a Dumpster, there is a wooden fence door — seemingly out of place in the middle of a cinderblock wall. A door that leads to a secret garden.

Local garden enthusiast Annalisa Gojmerac has been tending to the Royal Square Garden for more than a year and is excited about how far it's come in that time.

"When I first saw this site, the weeds were over my head," Gojmerac said. "That told me two things: one was the area was horribly neglected, and two was the dirt has got to be good to grow weeds that well, so I knew if we removed the impediments to growing a garden, we would be able to make good progress on producing food."

Production: Thus far, the garden is growing tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, winter squash, summer squash, onions, eggplants, peppers and green beans, with more vegetables hopefully on the horizon, she said. The produce grown in the garden is donated to Healthy World Cafe a few blocks away on South George Street.

Healthy World Cafe, a "pay-how-you-can" restaurant that's open during weekday lunchtimes, receives donated produce from numerous farms throughout the county. Liza Naylor, cafe manager, said she helped when the Royal Square Garden project was getting started and was excited to start receiving regular deliveries from it.

Volunteering: Gojmerac is one of three main volunteers working on the garden, she said, with various groups or students donating their help for one- or two-week increments.

(Click here for a video tour.)

"Ninety-five percent of the job we do is removing trash, and so you have to be passionate about it, but if you love your city and love what you do, it becomes easy," Gojmerac said. "It becomes difficult to get people to commit to a project long-term."

Tour: Gojmerac will offer an open tour of the garden Saturday from 11 a.m. to noon, and she's interested to see people's reactions.

"Most people never get to see the interior courtyard of an abandoned city," she said. "It looks pretty rough but, to me, it looks marvelous because I know what we started so I have good hope for the future."

Gojmerac started working on the garden in conjunction with Royal Square because she saw they had a need and they saw she had an interest.

"Their purpose is to fix up buildings and the neighborhood, and mine is to dedicate myself toward areas that have been thrown away and bringing them back to life," she said.

Gojmerac also will show off some side projects in the area during her tour, including a bike tree mini park, located in an alley next to Redeux, where she repurposed old bicycles into a visually stimulating garden. Gojmerac is happy to just have the opportunity to be a part of the revitalization of York, she said.

"It's wonderful to have a voice in your community and make it be what you want it to be," she said. "It's a very exciting time to be in York.

"This is more than just about growing a garden. You're fixing a city."

—Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com.