FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — MAY 22, 2013 —
Last week, the mayor and city council honored a local community group for its civic improvement efforts. That honor came with a plaque, along with a wink and a nod.
The plaque came for the efforts of the “Friends of the Main Drain Parkway” to reclaim a strip of city land near Venice Street and put it to good use. Several years ago, these Southport residents created a community garden on that spot, The garden is a success, governed by a sense of neighborhood etiquette.
Paying heed to the adage, “Better to beg forgiveness than ask permission,” they didn’t get a city permit at first. It was a fine example of “guerrilla gardening,” and these folks created a community asset by skipping the usual red tape.
The city council more recently made the group a more formal, legitimate user of the land.
There are those, elsewhere, who take “guerrilla gardening” to the next level, the New York Times has reported on several occasions. Sneak-gardeners do hit-and run plantings of butterfly bush on neglected traffic circles in London, they plant community vegetable gardens in vacant lots in Los Angeles and they surreptitiously graft branches of fruit trees onto compatible ornamentals in San Francisco parks.
Performance art, civic beautification, serving the “local food” movement or just bringing fresh produce to poor neighborhoods.
Growing food, in fact, is a frequent theme of these gardeners.
Now, sometimes this kind of thing isn’t practical. For example, there are places where a fruit tree might make an undesirable mess.
But the upsides are clear: lots are beautified and people get some good food. And, like their compatriots in Southport, the fact that these urban garden warriors are willing to take the time and trouble to plant, graft and tend their public crops shows, at the very least, that somebody cares.
It’s important to remember that caring itself is something that can grow and thrive like a carefully tended bean plant basking in the sun.
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Copyright News-Ledger 2013