Lindsey Hammer, Lee Collins and Kristin Carpenter greet potential gardeners on opening day of the Cordova community garden. Photo by Kinsey Brown for The Cordova Times

On Saturday the Cordova Community Garden held an opening event at St. Michael’s Church.

Staff from the Prince William Sound Economic Development District (PWSEDD) and the Copper River Watershed Project (CRWP) were present to welcome garden users and provide information. Visitors explored the newly available garden boxes and were able to take home free garden starts. 

The community garden offers two different options for home gardeners to take advantage of. Ten boxes have been constructed by volunteers at a permanent location at St. Michael’s Church.

Additionally, 20 box kits are available for rent by gardeners wishing to garden at home. Applications for the boxes were made available for individuals, groups, and organizations at the CRWP office and the Cordova Family Resource Center (CFRC). A $40 fee is required to rent the box for the season, with a waiver for applicants with qualifying incomes.

Distribution of boxes and other resources such as soil and seeds has been overseen by PWSEDD Program Manager Lindsey Hammer.

“All ten boxes at the church are already spoken for,” said Hammer of community interest in the garden.


The garden has been a hope of a number of individuals and organizations in the community for many years.

“It’s been an idea I’ve heard talked about for literal decades,” said Kristin Carpenter, the executive director of PWSEDD.

Carpenter says that PWSEDD was interested in supporting community garden efforts to address food security issues related to access and nutrition.

“We don’t have as reliable ferry service as we would like … and food loses a lot of its nutrition content soon after it’s harvested,” Carpenter said.

Several challenges, such as lack of accessible gardening space and necessary funds, needed to be overcome in order for the vision of a community garden to finally take shape.

Four Cordova residents were able to come together and take advantage of micro-grants offered by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources Agriculture (ADNRA) in order to purchase the garden boxes. Bert Stammerjohan, Lisa Docken, Chris Iannazzone, and Mark Carrel were each awarded $5,000 through the grant program with the intention of creating the shared garden space.

Onion bulbs and marigolds were made available for garden users. Photo by Kinsey Brown

Soil and fill were donated by Ace Hardware and Paul Kelly. Stammerjohan and Iannazzone continued to be instrumental to the launch of the project by researching materials and design that would be optimal in Cordova’s challenging weather conditions. Iannazzone had previously worked on a community garden feasibility study through the CRWP.

The boxes feature a removable top which can be dismantled and stored during the winter months. The boxes were finally able to be assembled and filled with soil on the church site through local volunteer effort.

Previous suggestions for community garden ideas struggled with finding a suitable location for the site. Organizers felt it was important to not only find a clear, open area for the garden, but also to choose a location that was easily accessible for all Cordovans.

A conversation about a mutual love of gardening between Iannazzone and Darrel Olsen of the St. Michael’s Church sparked the idea for the church as the perfect garden site.

St. Michael’s Church is located off of Chase Avenue with adjoining footpath access from Lake Avenue.

The open area is flat, within walking distance of town, and protected from the winds coming across Eyak Lake.

“It’s perfect,” Carpenter says of the final location. “It’s down the street from the elementary school for possible programming… and central for people who live in town.”

Lee Collins was hired by PWSEDD to act as garden manager for the summer season. The position was made possible through funding from the RurALCap (Rural Alaska Community Action Program) Foundation. Collins was present the day of the opening to help distribute plant starts and demonstrate how to use garden boxes.

Collins says what he lacks in gardening experience he makes up for through his passion for the project.

“I think it’s valuable in a lot of ways,” he said of the garden. “From the economics of it, like getting less groceries sent in, to the mental health benefits of gardening too.”

Collins plans to be available on site at St. Michael’s Church throughout the summer and hopes to host workshops to empower local gardeners. Additional garden education will be available through classes at the Prince William Sound Community College this fall.