Salem neighborhood aims to grow community with new accessible garden

For 15 years, a south Salem community has worked to live sustainably and grow its own food. A recent expansion means a more diverse group of residents have the chance to participate.

In Pringle Creek Community, everyone has an opportunity to contribute and gain from the shared garden. With a new accessible garden space finished this month, people of all generations and physical abilities can also hone their green thumb. 

Pringle Creek was created in 2007 by James Meyer with the goal of being a sustainable living community in south Salem that could bring neighbors together and provide the things they need close by. 

Located at 3911 Village Center Drive S.E., the 32-acre housing development includes many different styles of homes – single-family, tiny homes, townhouses and more. They range in size from 400-square-foot studios to 2,200-square-foot family homes, and have more green space than most developments. The area is surrounded by protected habitats and wildlife, and all homes are built with sustainability and environmental impact in mind.  

“This was (Meyer’s) dream community – to create a community that was multigenerational and had the values to live sustainably and lightly on the land,” said Betty Boyce, a Pringle Creek resident and Sustainable Living Center secretary. 

Betty Boyce, Pringle Creek Community resident, describes the community fridge and greenhouse where people can buy dairy products, eggs, and produce on the honor system. (Jordyn Brown/Salem Reporter)

The Sustainable Living Center is the nonprofit arm of Pringle Creek that provides educational outreach about sustainable practices. It’s entirely volunteer-run, and creates community partnerships to encourage people to be more environmentally-conscious. 

Pringle Creek also has its own community center, complete with a kitchen and space for events like movie nights, and there is also commercial space being constructed in the development. 

“The idea of being able to live in place and age in place was really important to the Meyer family,” Boyce said. 

Pringle Creek’s urban farmer Colleen Owen stands in her abundant crops of broccoli and cauliflower. (Jordyn Brown/Salem Reporter)

The development also has two community greenhouses, where people can rent garden plots and grow their own food. They are also used to grow an abundance of squash, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, herbs and even lemon trees that are shared with residents, who are asked to pay for the produce on the honor system. 

The community’s leaders have wanted to make an accessible garden in addition to the two greenhouses for years now, but didn’t have enough funds until receiving a $9,500 AARP grant this summer, and $2,100 from community members. 

Over the summer, they expanded the paved pathways into the greenhouses, poured new concrete and built raised beds of varied heights with wheelchair access. They also used the money to get large planter pots with castors on them, so they can be moved easily throughout the space. 

“We also want to make gardening accessible for people who may have a smaller, fixed space, like an apartment,” said Lisa Trauernicht, the living center’s board president. “We’re going to host events where people can come out to get their hands dirty… The whole point of it is to be a community space and an educational space.” 

Colleen Owen has worked for about 10 years as the community’s urban farmer, growing most of the produce and managing the greenhouse. Having worked in nurseries and retail garden spaces, she was drawn to the community for the gardening classes and its sense of shared resources. 

“That was always the vision – it’s because of the community and all the people that come by here that makes this such a unique place,” Owen said. 

Pringle Creek Community has two greenhouses open for residents. (Jordyn Brown/Salem Reporter)

Pringle Creek will have its official “ground breaking” open house event this Sunday from 1 p.m to 3 p.m. to celebrate the new expanded accessible garden space. 

While the peak planting season is now drawing to a close, Boyce said she’s eager to see what people can grow and learn next year. They plan to keep expanding the accessible garden space, and see this as just the first phase.

Pringle Creek has two community greenhouses for residents. (Jordyn Brown/Salem Reporter)

Contact Reporter Jordyn Brown at [email protected]

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Jordyn Brown is an Oregon journalist who formerly worked for the Eugene Register-Guard.