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Center for Local Self-Reliance nearing renovations of historic Caretakers House & Gardens

May 4th, 2013 | Category: Community

by Kathryn Kozowski

The Center for Local Self-Reliance (CLSR) is a Fairhaven-based non-profit organization whose mission is to renovate and revitalize the historic Caretakers House & Gardens at Fairhaven Park and offer the space for community members to practice and teach gardening and food preservation skills.

The group was formed in 2008, when they drafted a proposal to the City of Bellingham requesting control of the Caretaker’s House, located in Fairhaven Park. The City approved the committee’s proposal, and over the past four years the board members at CLSR have been working to restore the historic landmark’s building and grounds. It has been a long process, but the committee is hopeful they can complete renovations next year, which will mark the 100th birthday of the Caretaker’s House.

Located on 2.5 acres of land, the property offers community gardens, which now cover a large portion of the front yard. Lynn Loveland, the coordinator of the garden committee for CLSR, states that the gardens “generate product that goes back to the community,” such as the Food Bank and YWCA. On April 21, Loveland and a few volunteers planted heirloom roses, donated by donation of Alison Kutz, in homage to the Rose Gardens that were once located on this property. Loveland’s mission is to grow a medicinal garden, the proceeds of which she will return to the community. She also wants to educate local residents on the importance of medicinal plants and provide instruction for those interested in growing their own.

The nearly 100-year-old property is located at 107 Chuckanut Drive and is open to the public. Building renovations have included replacing the roof, building a new fence around the perimeter of the property, replacing the front porch, installing new windows, and painting the exterior of the house. Roses were recently planted too, marking the significance of the site’s former rose gardens. Photos by Kathryn Kozowski

The CLSR recently hosted a presentation at the Fairhaven Library, in which Steve Wilson, president of the board, explained their mission, and shared the renovations done on the Caretaker’s House and how the facility will be used once construction is finalized. Major projects have included removing all moldy material from the basement, replacing the roof, building a new fence around the perimeter of the property to keep deer away from the gardens, replacing the front porch, installing new windows, and painting the exterior of the house. Wilson explained that future projects include modernizing the kitchen, building a more extensive trail system through the park, install an irrigation system, and build an outdoor kitchen for classes they hope to host in the future.

In an interview with Wilson he shared his inspiration for taking on this huge project. “I’ve lived in the south neighborhood for 32 years, walked by that house so many times, our family [used Fairhaven Park] when our kids were little…for many years we had community people trying to get the parks to do something…but it wasn’t until the city said, ‘We are no longer interested in keeping the house,’ that the gate was opened, and we decided to turn in a proposal.”

He claims the most fulfilling part of the project so far has been “the amazing response people would give to these major projects.” He estimates that volunteers have donated 3,000 hours to working on the house. “And that’s just on-site,” he explained. “That doesn’t count any of the board work that happens behind the scenes.” He discussed professionals who donated their expertise to the project. “I was in a conversation with somebody and I said, ‘We’ve got to figure out what color we’re going to put on this house,’ and she goes, ’Oh, may I do a color report for you?’ She put together a professional color report that was turned in to the Municipal Arts Commission. It lends a lot of credibility to what we’re doing when we can attract people with that kind of expertise.”

Wilson wants people to see the house “as a place to learn about food – how to grow your own food, how to preserve food, how to create a community around food.”

His parting words were, “We’re always looking for new people to jump in. It’s kinda hard to keep momentum for a project going this long, with very little to give back. We know that we’re going to have classes there someday. That’s the hardest part, to keep your eyes on the prize.”

Anyone interested in volunteering or donating to CLSR can visit their website at caretakershouse.org, contact 360) 671-3380 or caretakershouse@gmail.com, or follow their Facebook page at Center for Local Self-Reliance. The property is located at 107 Chuckanut Drive and open to the public.

Published in the May 2013 issue of Grow Northwest.

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