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RE: Protecting urban community gardens from vandalism


Working within an urban context of gardening and alternative food systems, I
relate to your protection dillema. Fences are often a necessary evil,
especially when trying to create examples of healthy community involvement.
I, too, work with 4-H youths, and desire to make a different impression from
the "if it ain't nailed down, its up for grabs" approach that so often
passes as an ethical argument today. Let me share a couple ideas that group
gardens have arrived at in KC:

--  the Kansas City Community Gardens has a ten-acre field that serves 150
families gardening for mkt and pleasure. They have an 8 foot fence around
the entire property, but gardeners often complain of youths jumping the
fence with large bags to grab as much produce as can be had. The gardeners,
many senior citizens, leave the premises when these vandals arrive. There's
no security guard to deter the thieves. For this reason, KCCG discourages
blatant advertisement of the garden as a place to grow, then sell at the
market. This almost discourages the market value of gardening, which Food
Circles Networking Project pitches as a means of creating alternative
economic self-reliance for urban residents. Common key locks are used on the
various gates. 
	Kansas City Community Gardens also has a small commgarden near
Country Club Plaza, with a nice wooden picket fence. Noone graffiti's the
fence, noone really bothers the place. Fully surrounded by nice middleclass
neighbors and middlemanagement type apartment dwellers. Even though the
garden produces some of the finest group garden produce I've seen. A
combination lock with simple easy to remember code is used.

-- the Gem Theater Youth Arts Garden is probably more like your projects. On
three vacant lots in a sketchy neighborhood on the East side of town; down
the street from the YMCA, but on a block where most of the neighbors were
leery of getting involved. We managed to create a garden project last summer
with the involvement of 40 YMCA kids and 20 neighborhood kids. Heavy on the
art, heavy on the crummy-lot cleansing and beautification, that project
attracted the attention of about 1,000 rubber necking drivers along the busy
street. We learned not to underestimate the neighborhood, as residents
didn't vandalize the project during the summer. Oh, we didn't have a fence
at all, but we did keep all our tools in a donated container cargo trailer
(with the name of the construction company blazenly printed on the side).
Later in the season, some vandals swiped plants, and some of the art was
defaced. Otherwise, the fence wasn't more important than the community
building and youth programming that came out of the efforts. 

--  another KC urban gardening project was neglected for five years until a
group of community members reclaimed it. All of a giant acre, about seven
lots, owned by Neighborhood Housing Services, it was built ten years ago
through partnership with the City and a senior center/ retirement complex. A
massive wrought iron fence along the streetside, with impressive gating.
Last year's initial efforts were hampered due to limited community
involvement and a couple who, by necessity, took over the reclaimation. Many
problems with the land persevered like stolen cars continuing to be dumped
in the location (the gate is huge); a hole clipped into the back fence to
facilitate egress by neighborhood residents; etc. The fence is still
considered a necessity by the volunteer gardeners, and they look forward to
doing a little hasp repair on the gate to allow a lock that will protect
their goods. 

	Overall, the examples of Kansas City's community gardens might
provide you with some information to base your decisions "to fence or not to
fence". Your question is more along the lines of what options are there to
fencing, however, if market gardening is involved, the gardeners will
probably tell you its important to protect their crops. In consideration of
this, a chain link fence is relatively transparent, yet it does deters all
but the most earnest (or hungry) thieves. 

Hope this helps, 

Tom Kerr
Food Circles Networking Project - Kansas City
University of Missouri Outreach and Extension
2700 E. 18th Street, Suite 240
Kansas City, MO 64127
tel: (816) 482-5888
fax: (816) 482-5880 

> -----Original Message-----
> From:	Justin Trager [SMTP:jtrager@nmsu.edu]
> Sent:	Friday, March 24, 2000 11:00 AM
> To:	community_garden@mallorn.com
> Subject:	[cg] Protecting urban community gardens from vandalism
> Hi,
>   I am new to the listserv.  I was recently hired to expand 4-H services
> in 
> Albuquerque by developing after-school and summer youth prevention 
> programs.    A major component of our program is to engage youth in 
> service-learning activities and in particular to help create and work in a
> community garden.  The sites for garden are all going to be new.  The 
> process for getting this program started has been collaborative and has 
> involved the resident associations, the city, community centers, and the 
> schools.
> As I talk to people about the details, one ongoing issue keeps coming up -
> protecting the garden from vandalism.  My past involvement in community 
> development teaches me that if the garden is truly a product of the 
> community they will take ownership and ensure that the garden is protected
> and I know that that has been successful,at other sites.  However, in
> spite 
> of some quality community organizing and support I do not sense that it is
> currently strong enough to prevent vandalism.  Secondly the sites that
> have 
> been chosen are next to community centers and parks (mostly separate from 
> residential areas) in which a lot of people hang out after hours and have
> a 
> history of vandalism and destruction.
> So I need help - due to grant issues, the program needs to start this 
> summer, so I cannot take time to do more community organizing and 
> support.  Does anyone have any advice for ways to protect an urban 
> community garden form vandalism and destruction, besides ten feet high 
> fence with barbed wire on the top, which really takes away from the urban 
> beautification component of the garden?
> I appreciate any thoughts and shared experiences.
> Jusitn Trager
> NMSU Bernalillo County Extension Service
> _______________________________________________
> community_garden maillist  -  community_garden@mallorn.com
> https://secure.mallorn.com/mailman/listinfo/community_garden

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