our community garden, part 1

in lieu of a new blog, maybe called “stealth gardening for the masses” or “the neighborhood dirt,” i thought i would post my report of our first meeting on june 20.

Jim and I arrived in the round place a little before 5:45-7, the next few got there while I was walking back to the house to get some water, and people trickled by until 8. We parked the truck sideways in the street, blocking the culdesac well back beyond the entrance. We all brought something to eat, a few brought tables, a few chairs, a rug. We brought sidewalk chalk.

When most of the people had arrived, I spoke up and told everybody what I’d found out from Carla Smith (City Councilwoman) and Mario Cambardella (city Urban Agriculture director) about how to start a community garden.

I’d had a meeting with them down at City Hall a few weeks before. The vision I presented at City Hall was this: I wanted to cut off vehicular access to the cul de sac, except for the parking spaces adjoining the rental duplex on the south of the street, and the roadway leading to the back yard parking area of the house on the north. Then I wanted to tear up the asphalt on the remaining circle and use the dirt underneath it as a garden and play area. I also wanted to take down many or most of the trees in the area beyond the circle. And I wanted to get the sound fence continued, and the rest of the outer boundary of the area fenced off. I wanted to retain the ‘cut’ from the neighborhood to the convenience store on Boulevard, but I wanted the woods fenced off from Boulevard and the I-20 on-ramp. In short, I wanted to make a community garden covering the entire cul de sac and the whole area beyond it, from the property lines of the existing houses to the borders of Boulevard and I-20.

Carla and Mario were enthusiastic. They can help get things done. They told me that the process was to find out who owned the area (the City and the DOT), and to get them to sign it over to the Parks Department, after which Parks Atlanta could own it for the purposes of the water bill and insurance. We assumed the property belongs partly to the City and partly to the Department of Transportation, and they thought it wouldn’t be much of a problem getting the ownership of the City’s portion transferred to the Parks Department. But it might take a couple of years to finalize things with DOT. Which means it might take a couple of years to get them to take up the asphalt (free of charge, because they recycle it). So for a couple of years we’ll have to use raised beds.

And then there are other issues. Emergency vehicles use the cul de sac as a shady turnaround and staging area between calls, so they won’t want us taking up the asphalt. We might could work with them on that. And we need to get water into the garden. Perhaps we can get Watershed Management to run a line, but then someone has to be responsible for paying the bill. So someone has to “own” the property. Carla and Mario suggested we work with Park Pride, who do this sort of thing, and I spoke to Betty Hanacek there, who offered loads of help once our space is an official park.

Mario suggested we begin using the area as our own, put in some raised beds, take our kids there to play. They pushed me to set up the first meeting, suggested I bring sidewalk chalk so we could begin envisioning our garden. Carla is having someone look up the ownership of the cul de sac and woods, and I need to find out what the next official step is, and prepare to take it.

We need to organize a group, a friends of the community garden. We’ll need a prez, vp, treasurer, secretary. We already have two volunteer officials – Susan D wants to be treasurer, and Mike M is going to make proper drawings. I’d like to see volunteers for everything else, including prez…

We’ll need to start cleaning up, thinning the brush, cutting some trees. It’s not our property yet, so I’m not sure how much of that is allowed. But it can’t hurt to maintain our neighborhood’s public and abandoned spaces ourselves.

People who attended our first meeting had some cool ideas.
Make and install a “coming soon” sign in the cul de sac
Have a multi-family yard sale in the cul de sac
Install a basketball hoop
Make raised beds from the containers used for stones at the garden center on memorial
Raised beds from wooden palettes, or from bales of straw
Get the City to install a stop sign on Bryan St eastbound at Park Ave
Petition Watershed Management for free water for Atlanta community gardens

Next steps are for me to find out what the next steps are, for us to start cleaning and trimming the brush, and to have another function. I’m going to canvas for a July weekend morning for us to get out there with weed whackers and chainsaws, and we’ll arrange another evening social in July – maybe a barbecue?

Here is a drawing of all the chalk drawings people did as we brainstormed where things could go.



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