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Charlotte, NC "Observer": Charlotte Community Gardens

  • Subject: [cg] Charlotte, NC "Observer": Charlotte Community Gardens
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Sat, 17 Apr 2004 09:47:03 EDT

Community gardens


County parks now offer plots to would-be urban farmers

MARY NEWSOM


It was 1980, in Baltimore. A friend I was visiting introduced me to that city's allotment gardens, where apartment dwellers such as my friend could grow gardens on unused city land. I wondered then why Charlotte couldn't copy the idea.

Community gardens have a dedicated following in other cities. Some programs even publish their own cookbooks. Folks can grow food, which helps those of limited income. In some cities the garden programs have spun off into entrepreneurial businesses in which inner-city youths market salsa and other urban agricultural products.

Other benefits are less tangible, though no less real. Neighborhood gardens can build neighborhood pride and positive activism. Gardeners get acquainted across racial, economic, cultural and generational boundaries -- harvesting that oft-yearned-for social capital.

But until now Charlotte hasn't had any broad community gardening program, though a few groups such as the Urban Ministry Center and the Wilmore neighborhood cultivate gardens.

Finally! Mecklenburg now has a fledgling community garden system. County Park and Recreation Director Wayne Weston last month told managers in all nine county park districts to find room for at least one community garden.

The program officially started April 1, said Deputy Park Director Fred Gray.

For $10 or $15 a year you can rent a tilled plot at one of 10 community gardens. Nine are new; McAlpine Creek Park already had a garden:

Huntingtowne Farms Park (704) 643-3405; McAlpine Creek Park, (704) 568-4044; Nevin Park (704) 336-8866; Phillip O. Berry Recreation Center (704) 432-6775; Ramsey Creek Park in Huntersville (704) 896-9808; Southside Park (704) 353-1165; Southview Recreation Center, (704) 353-1250; Sugaw Creek Park (704) 353-1237; Sunset Road Park (704) 336-3586; Veterans Park (704) 353-1165; Winget Park (704) 529-1827.

It's strictly BYOT (Bring Your Own Tools), although compost is available. Gardeners are responsible for watering, although generally a water supply is nearby, and for any fencing. Gardeners are encouraged to use organic methods. Horticulturists with the cooperative extension service are helping set up the program.

Wouldn't it be grand if the program grew until gardens are available close to each resident who would like one?

Wouldn't it be grand if Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools lent some of the unused land at its schools for community gardens? CMS could save money it spends mowing and weeding (not that much goes for weeding, from what I see), and folks in the neighborhood would benefit.

In other news

Save gas, save time? California's legislature is considering a bill to let owners of gas-electric hybrid vehicles such as Toyota Prius drive in the carpool lanes, which are usually restricted to cars with several occupants. The San Francisco Chronicle reports the bill has wide support, including from Gov. Ahnold.

Charlotte makes the list -- again: Charlotte's on the 2004 list of the most livable U.S. cities, put out by Partners for Livable Communities. The nonprofit group named the Queen City one of four "most livable" cities in 2000, as well.

This year we're one of 30 communities, including Winston-Salem, Columbia, Roanoke, Va., Denver, Jacksonville, San Diego and San Jose.

The group based its list on "innovative approaches to prepare for the new Economy," says its web site www.mostlivable.org.

"It's the attractiveness, the architecture, the design," the group's president, Robert McNulty, told Haya El Nasser of USA Today. "It's cities that embrace the creative economy. It's cities that don't leave anyone behind. It's regionalism. It's cities run by a team of different players -- not just the mayor, not just the chamber of commerce, not just the convention and visitors' bureau."

Embracing the creative economy? Not run by the chamber of commerce? Leaving no one behind? Charlotte?

I wondered if McNulty had confused us with Charlottesville, Va., or Charlotte, Vt.? Hardly.

The group's officers include Jane Henderson of Wachovia, Vickie Tassan of Bank of America's Washingon office; trustees include Charlotte's Mayor Pat McCrory (a "life time trustee") and San Jose City Manager Del Borgsdorf, ex-Charlotte deputy city manager. Its trustee emeritus list includes B of A's Cathy Bessant. With those folks on the board it's a fair bet Charlotte will pop up frequently on the group's list.

Mary Newsom

Mary Newsom is an Observer associate editor. Write her at The Observer, P.O. Box 30308, Charlotte, NC 28230-0308, or by e-mail at mnewsom@charlotteobserver.com.




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