Neighbors Rally to Save Community Garden
April 15, 2015
The idea of the Westview Community Garden first came to fruition in December 2009 when neighbors were presented with an opportunity to turn a wide vacant lot on South Gordon Street into a community garden. After the Westview Community Organization signed a 3-year lease with the owner plans were started for the 2010 growing season.
The original concept of the garden was for community members to purchase a plot for the year, allowing each plot owner to be in charge of their own area and what was grown. A separate area was designated for shared land so that crops that would perform better in groups, such as corn, could be grown for everyone. The participating gardeners held work days to till the land and build raised beds, and additional work days were held throughout the year to work on keeping the common areas clean.
Over time an emphasis was placed on needing to work with neighborhood youth to teach them where food comes from, how to garden, and providing a sense of pride for their accomplishments when vegetables and fruits were ready to be harvested. In turn the garden took a shift from the individual plot concept to a shared community garden concept where everyone would work in the garden and could enjoy the crops.
The gardeners additionally worked to receive grants to build a garden shed and a chicken coop (it should be noted the plans never materialized to the point of chickens being at the garden), hosted various volunteer groups for garden maintenance, a rain barrel workshop, and were featured in the BeltLine newsletter and as a stop on bicycles tours of Atlanta-area gardens.
While the community garden continued to function, a series of unfortunate background events occurred that would lead to the sudden and surprising end of the garden in March 2015. The owner with whom the community had signed the lease passed away in 2012. After the lease expired at the end of 2013 the community unsuccessfully attempted to contact the heir to renew the lease, and hence the community continued to garden on the land as “tenants at sufferance” (i.e. continuing to occupy the space with an expired lease but without being asked to leave by the owner). Unbeknownst to the gardeners the property fell into foreclosure in April 2014 and was taken over by Capitol City Bank. Capitol City Bank would collapse in February 2015, leaving the FDIC to take over the bank’s assets, including the Westview Community Garden. Community members became aware of the situation when a “No Trespassing” signed appeared in the garden at the beginning of March, followed by a bulldozer at the end of March.
Thanks to the swift action of alert neighbors, members were able to rally and jump into action and salvage the majority of the garden shed. A vote was taken at the April Westview Community Organization meeting to raise the funds for the community to officially acquire the land. The community is currently in negotiations with the FDIC to buy the land. If successful, a fundraiser will be held to raise the money to pay for the land, officially making the garden a community owned asset.
We hope our next article about the garden will be a positive one with a happy ending. In the meanwhile you can read the thorough Creative Loafing article, “Westview Community Garden demolished, but not the neighborhood’s dreams,” as well as take a trip down memory lane with pictures of the garden from our archive:
Tags: bicycle, community garden, fundraising, garden, gardening, intown atlanta, planting, rain barrel, shed, south gordon, southwest atlanta, vegetables, volunteer, wco, west end, west end park, westview, westview community organization