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Thread: Community gardens on municipally owned land

  1. #1
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    Community gardens on municipally owned land

    I work for a municipality where many groups are interested in creating community gardens.

    Community gardening has many benefits.

    At the same time, in many cases these gardens are created on land owned by a municipality which is vacant. Sometimes this land may be eventually sold and redeveloped.

    So the situation arises where the municipality agrees with the use of the land temporarily for a community garden, but for understandable reasons it needs to manage/regulate the use of the land for gardens effectively.

    Do Cyburbia members know of rules by which the municipality can manage/regulate the use of this land? Such rules could be worked into a standard lease agreement with the gardener to ensure successful use of the land as long as it is used as a community garden. "User rules" might include, for example, provisions for renewing/cancelling leases, no corner lot gardens, water source rules, registration of a responsible party, etc.

    Please share your ideas/examples of useful documents regarding this topic.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I'm not sure I understand all of your questions. I actually head up a community garden on private land and we have a lease agreement with the land owner. One approach with municipal land would be to have this same kind of document between the municipality and, I would say, a non-profit entity established to manage the garden space. I suppose you could have individual contracts with each grower, but that could get complicated very quickly.

    Seattle has a very well developed community garden program called P-patches. The land is owned by the city but a non-profit is contracted to manage the leasing of plots, delivery of water, and enforcing rules and regulations. That is one way to do it and it is a very successful program. Link to that program here: http://www.seattle.gov/Neighborhoods/ppatch/

    Another place to look is Wasatch Community Gardens in the Salt Lake City area. They are very well organized and have a terrific handbook, complete with sample lease agreements, job descriptions, etc. This may provide some good examples for some of the rules and regs you are thinking about. I used it a lot in establishing our garden. Link to the handbook here: http://www.wasatchgardens.org/Librar...upHandbook.PDF

    Lastly, the American Community Garden Association is an excellent resource for all things related to gardens. They have, among other things, a listserve. You could post questions similar to what you have done here and are sure to get some useful responses. This is their website: http://www.communitygarden.org/

    Good luck. You can PM me if you have more detailed questions. Can;t say I can answer them, but I can try...
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Slow Food Nation recently converted the front lawn of San Francisco into what they call a "Victory Garden". It's not exactly a commuity garden - it is monitored, not a free-for-all, and the produce is donated to local charities. See the article here:

    http://www.chow.com/stories/11278

  4. #4
    Boston has a great network of community gardens. The south end / lower roxbury land trust or the boston natural area network can give lots of advice.

  5. #5
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    This information is very helpful. I might have some more questions. Thanks for what you've given me so far.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian poncho's avatar
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    We are considering beginning a community garden in our fair city. One question is do you fence the lot in or leave it open? There is fear that vandals may destroy the crops at some point.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by poncho View post
    We are considering beginning a community garden in our fair city. One question is do you fence the lot in or leave it open? There is fear that vandals may destroy the crops at some point.
    Our garden does not have a locked gate, but the circumstances there are a bit unusual. Historically (for about 10 years) it has been an abandoned lot and used as a cut-through from an alleyway. Because of this and because we were concerned with establishing trust in the community, we did not fence/gate it off.

    If we were somewhere different, I actually would consider it. We have had some issues. Mainly it has been people stealing food and, earlier in the season, entire plants. We are pretty confident it is one person whom we caught a few times and talked with about it. Unfortunately (more for her than us) she lives in a neighboring house with some other addicts and so despite our conversations, I am not sure she is always in her right mind when she passes through and sees some fresh tomatoes or ripe melon.

    We have not had any outright vandalism, but being in a neighborhood helps - there are houses 11 feet from the property line on both sides.

    Our approach this year has been to maintain three large plots with food for anyone in the neighborhood to come and take as they need or wish. So far this season, it has been successful. Signage directing people to what they can and cannot take has also helped.

    I really encourage you to look at the Wasatch gardens document I linked to in the earlier post. Its a great resource for all levels of detail about community gardens. They also advocate a secured space.

    Hazards in keeping it open also relate to liability, stray dogs (who can destroy a patch digging in that delicious soil), and homeless folks, which you may or may not perceive as a "problem." We have some homeless people that occasionally sleep in the garden when it is grown up because it provides great shelter and provides free food. I don't begrudge anyone who is hungry, but it can sour the neighbors on our project. A tricky line to walk, for sure.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

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