Community gardens are working to open under new social distancing restrictions after the province declared them essential April 25.

With the growing season approaching, local gardens are working to adhere to new health unit guidelines to operate this summer. Those include preventing the general public from accessing gardens, limiting to five people at a time, maintaining a two-metre distance from others and members using their own tools as much as possible. Groups are required to submit a checklist to the health unit about operations before opening.

The Eagle Lake Community Church garden is one of them. Pastor Garry Swagerman said the small group that runs it is preparing to start as scheduled June 1.

“It’s important that we do have gardens. This is one of the things that people are going to turn to in light of social distancing, in light of what might happen while grocery shopping,” Swagerman said.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit said in a press release gardens are required to notify them about their intentions to operate and confirm they are following guidelines.

“Community gardens are truly an essential service in allowing many local residents to grow, access and enjoy fresh food,” public health inspector Dharminder Kaler said. “We’re all in this together, so we encourage community gardens to put health and safety first as they go about their growing season.”

Other local gardens are also preparing to open, including the ones run by Community Living Trent Highlands (CLTH) in Haliburton.

“CLTH passionately believes in food security for Haliburton village and is committed to doing whatever we need to in order to keep our gardens open and safe for all,” executive director Teresa Jordan said.

Swagerman said there is a list of 22 restrictions to follow but expects his garden will be able to comply. The Eagle Lake Community Church garden is also adding a new plot this season to provide for food banks.

“Our hope this year is to start implementing food for the community. I think with COVID-19, that makes it even more important,” he said.

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