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Arlington, TX: Fighting Crime With Community Gardens

  • Subject: [cg] Arlington, TX: Fighting Crime With Community Gardens
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Sun, 13 Jun 2004 08:46:03 EDT


Posted on Sun, Jun. 13, 2004

Fighting crime with gardens
Two Arlington women begin program to improve low-income neighborhoods
By Melissa Sanchez
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
ARLINGTON - For six years, the old, dilapidated house across the street from Teresa Megahan's home was an unsightly backdrop for family dinners.
Not only had the littered lot at 401 E. Sanford St. decreased the value of her home, but it also put a damper on the overall feel of the central Arlington neighborhood. After Megahan's living room was gutted by a drunken driver more than a year ago, the mother of three decided it was time for action.
Megahan and neighbor Melissa Flores have now established Grounded for Life, a program to help Arlington residents make their neighborhoods a better and safer place to live. The grassroots project plants gardens in destitute and abandoned areas in primarily low-income neighborhoods, Megahan said.
"We had this idea for a community garden project to help neighborhoods riddled with drug trafficking and prostitution," Megahan said.
Flores, a warranty coordinator for Legacy Homes, has lived in Arlington for three years. The Austin native always had a love for the rich and beautiful gardens of her hometown but found the Metroplex lacking in foliage. Flores was inspired by a program called Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, Calif., where children grow their own food in a school garden. She wanted to do something similar for her community.
Although Megahan and Flores lived within two blocks of each other, they never crossed paths until they attended the Writers Garret, a nonprofit organization offering workshops for adult writers in Dallas.
"It was so funny that two people who lived so close together, and had a common interest in gardening and writing, had never met," Megahan said.
After getting acquainted, they quickly realized that aside from sharing a concern for crime in their community, they both wanted to see a change for the house on East Sanford Street.
Megahan contacted Chris Williams, a code enforcement officer for Arlington, and filed a citizen action request with the city, and Williams prompted the owner to repair things that led to code violations on the property. The owner cleared the lot in two months and pledged five years of use to the Grounded for Life program. The project is slated for October, and the lot will be transformed into a botanical garden. Megahan said she is getting most of the supplies for the garden donated.
On Saturday, Grounded for Life kicked off its first garden project by landscaping the front yard of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Arlington's Main Branch on Elm Street. Boys & Girls Clubs members helped plant flowers with soil and equipment donated by local businesses.
"I really hope that this will deter people from polluting the area with crime and graffiti," said Leilani Birkmire, spokeswoman for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Arlington. "Maybe it will give people an appreciation for nurturing things from the ground up and give them a sense of ownership for their community."
Birkmire said she hopes to work with Grounded for Life again at Arlington's other Boys & Girls Club locations.
As Grounded for Life matures, Megahan and Flores hope to step back and manage various projects, allowing community members to tend to gardens they helped build.
"I want it to be driven by residents," Megahan said. "I want them to take the project on, and then take off with it."

Melissa Sanchez, (817) 548-5411 msanchez@star-telegram.com

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