Man on a mission to save the community garden

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Twenty-two-year-old Andrew Levison has been in town less than three months, but he has made a name for himself already as an activist and community organizer.

He came to town for the winter after graduating from Wesleyan University with a degree in math and economics. He found a cause to carry when he heard that the LIFT-UP Community Garden was for sale.

"I was looking for something more fulfilling than partying with other 22-year-olds," Levison said. He found the Steamboat Springs Peace and Justice Center through one of the group's regular movie nights and then followed up by attending one of the group's Sunday potluck dinners.

"I saw the (for sale) sign up at the Community Garden, and I started asking around," he said.

Before moving to Steamboat Springs, Levison had been involved in the start-up of a one-acre community garden in Middletown, Conn. He put together the budget for the project and led the fund-raising efforts.

By the time he left Connecticut, Levison had soil in his blood.

"That got me interested in agriculture," he said.

The community garden Levison helped to start in Connecticut and the one he had in mind when he approached the City Council and Chris Wilson, director of the Steamboat Springs Parks, Open Space and Recreation Department, is a communal piece of land that is open to anyone who wants to garden.

"Kids came out to garden every day, and adults," Levison said. "It became this center of activity."

Levison has been trying to get the city to point him toward an unused, publicly owned piece of land that could be used for a new community garden.

He has enlisted the services of his friend and landscape designer Chris McKibben, who also is a recent college graduate.

Levison, through Linda Lewis at the Peace and Justice Center, has contacted all the lot owners at the current community garden looking for interested volunteers.

Levison also contacted landowner Bob Enever about the possibility of having a community garden near or in the Yampa River Botanic Park.

"We have some interest," Enever said, "but we would probably want to do it in a different way." Enever plans to wait and see what Levison can accomplish before moving forward on his own, he said.

The .24-acre lot on Fourth and Oak streets was the home of the LIFT-UP Community Garden since 1998.

Karin Utterback-Normann leased the lot to LIFT-UP of Routt County and continued to pay $4,000 a year in property taxes.

She put it on the market at the end of October. Michelle Avery at Coldwell Banker listed it for $399,000. The lot is currently under contract pending sale.

To contact Andrew Levison about his community garden effort, contact levison@ gmail.com.

-- To reach Autumn Phillips call 871-4210

or e-mail aphillips@steamboatpilot.com

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