We make a couple of turns into a sweet little residential neighborhood and fall upon the garden. I park between a basketball hoop in the street and a sign that says Watch for Children. The garden is set up like a mini-urban farm, with rows of crops in full production. Tomatoes. Cucumbers. Watermelon. Squash.
A woman named Chaylese and her daughter join us.
We are on the BeltLine in seconds, and we follow his flip-flopped feet down the bucolic wooded path, past the BeltLine's Mile 1 marker that shouts out about WeCycle, to an overpass where Shawn points out several potential locations that he hopes the BeltLine will consider as an access point rather than the Ashview Community Garden.
Back at the garden, Shawn says, "You want to meet some more of the kids?"
"Sure, but how long will that take?" I ask. It's getting late. I've been out all day. I need to take John home. My family is waiting for me.
Shawn smiles. "A minute," he answers.
It's Chaylese's daughter.
"I get mine today," she tells me. "I finally earned it."
So, my opinion has changed. You close down drug dealers. You close down human trafficking rings. You close down all kinds of things that have negative effects on communities. You don't close down community gardens where kids earn bikes and neighbors come together to create something special. You find another solution. There is always another solution, if you truly value that which you say you do, Atlanta BeltLine. Otherwise, you're exhibiting not only a failure of imagination, but a failure of heart, and you'll be facing these kids on September 30. And if you destroy this garden, this street, this neighborhood, that would be something I believe will nag at you the rest of your lives.
And to our community gardener (and bikey) friends all over our shared FoodShed Planet, I ask you to circulate this story and help get national and global support for this special place of resiliency and community. Plus, you can also sign the petition here . The clock is ticking, and these folks need help. If one garden gets destroyed, I'm starting to believe a little piece of all of our gardens gets destroyed. Let's show the Atlanta BeltLine how connected we are all over this global place we call home. You never know when the next garden to fall will be yours.
NOTE: I am talking with the Atlanta BeltLine tomorrow and will amend or update this story as appropriate afterwards. I know there's always more to the story, and will share what I learn.
*I've been hot on the Atlanta BeltLine, which, according to its website, is the most comprehensive transportation and economic development effort ever undertaken in the City of Atlanta and among the largest, most wide-ranging urban redevelopment programs currently underway in the United States. The Atlanta BeltLine is a sustainable redevelopment project that will provide a network of public parks, multi-use trails and transit along a historic 22-mile railroad corridor circling downtown and connecting many neighborhoods directly to each other. See "Close Your Mouth; We Are Not a Codfish (Why the Atlanta BeltLine Makes My Jaw Drop) .
I'm also hot on urban agriculture, as you know. And it has been a thorn in my side that plans for the Atlanta BeltLine miss the opportunity to include publicly-accessible edibles along every mile of the trail, especially considering Mayor Kasim Reed's goal as part of the City’s sustainability initiative, Power to Change, to bring local, healthy food within a half-mile of 75% of all residents by 2020 (as most recently stated in the City of Atlanta's media release regarding its just-passed urban agriculture ordinance that allows urban farms and gardens in residential neighborhoods). See Idea: Publicly-Accessible Edibles for Every Mile of the Atlanta BeltLine? There's one master-planned urban farm component, but that's it. No fruit trees among the thousands of trees that are being planted (see Drive-by Fruitings ). No blueberry hedgerows. No mile-marker herb pots. Even poor sweet BeltLine Minty got smashed to death. ("It's like beating up Frosty the Snowman!" my friend Robin exclaimed. These are her hands replanting Minty on a little hillside on the Eastside trail, as part of a Belty collage I made--that patch has now been eradicated as well.)
** My partner on that project, Mike Fillon, ran in the BeltLine's SW 5K just last week and passed a woman named Ebony holding a sign in support of the Ashview Community Garden. We didn't put the pieces together until after Alan contacted me. So many coincidences. So much kismet . . .
eclectic food-for-thought for a changing world