Niles Community Gardens director steps downPublished 5:20pm Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Niles Community Gardens is growing in a new direction.
Mark Van Til, who has served as the organization’s director since its inception three years ago, is no longer serving in that role.
Van Til won’t be completely absent from the Niles Community Gardens, though. In addition to acting as a resource for advice, Van Til said he would help with the pumpkin patch at Northside Child Development Center and teach classes when needed.
“My door is open all the time,” he said. “I hope to stay involved and stay in touch.”
Van Til cited his age and the time he needed to devote to run the program as the main reasons for stepping down.
“I put so much time into it I didn’t feel like I had time for anything else,” he said. “I’ve got some other things I wish to do yet, other projects.”
Van Til was not compensated in his first year as director, but received a small allowance through AmeriCorps Volunteers In Service To America (VISTA) the past two years. He said that allowance is no longer available.
“That was part of the reason, but I would’ve probably worked something out if not for the time element,” said Van Til, who spearheaded the effort to create the gardens in the spring of 2010. It started with 14 volunteers, but quickly grew to more than 100 members with several gardens spread throughout Niles.
Van Til said he would miss the people he met through Niles Community Gardens.
“It was a delight to watch it develop and a real blessing to me,” he said. “I am real hopeful it will continue, and continue to grow.”
David Markel, board chairman of Niles Community Gardens, said there are no plans to replace Van Til — at least during this growing season.
Instead, Markel said the plan is to have one volunteer coordinator for each of the city’s six community gardens.
“It is a real change in the organization as far as the structure and the involvement,” he said.
Last year, there were seven community gardens. Markel said they would be consolidating the Ferry Street garden into the Arbor Trails garden this year.
Those wanting to join the gardens can contact Markel at (269) 684-6974.