Tampa streamlines community garden application

05/19/11 Kate Bradshaw
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More and more people are thinking differently about open space. Residents in cities across the country are digging up patches of grass and replacing them with edible plants. Today Tampa City Council made it a little easier for local neighborhoods to get them going.

For the second time, council member Mary Mulhern read the non-flowery language of an ordinance that does away with the chunky process once required for sprouting a community garden in Tampa. For the second time, the council unanimously passed it. Resident Marilyn Smith, who’s known for her fierce criticisms of government officials, wasn’t so critical today. She said it’s about time the city look to a place like New York, which is light years ahead on community gardening.

They have done this in New York City and turned some terrible sites into very productive food, and that's plus all the other environmental benefits that come from cleaning up the junk, the trash, and junkies hanging around in there, etc. They have parks in the middle of their cities much more than they ever have before, and now they have green-growing, food-bearing plants. What's wrong with that?

A community garden is a public space where members of the surrounding area grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Before the ordinance, anyone wanting to transform open space in their neighborhood into one of these had to pay $2,000 in fees and undergo a public hearing. Neighborhood associations had said the hearings gave residents who don’t support a proposed garden a chance to voice their concerns. Now, all proposals will undergo administrative review at a cost of about $200. Kitty Wallace is community garden chair for the Tampa Garden Club.

I'm actively involved with organizers from the other gardens in developing a Hillsborough community-garden network.

She said the network that’s developing will help interested parties throughout the city follow the American Community Garden Association guidelines.

Those are things that we take on as responsibilities when we garden in a public place, that we will keep it well-organized, well-maintained, that there will be no interruption of other private owners' use of their property, that it will be a well-run endeavor.

Proponents say urban gardens not only provide a sustainable means of food production, but they can also serve as welcome respite from the grind and gridlock of city living.

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