Worthington’s Community Garden Program
The future of Worthington’s Community Garden program will be at the heart of tomorrow night’s City Council meeting (May 14, 7:30 p.m.) when the McCord Park Master Plan is presented and discussed (and where community input will be welcome).
For more information on the park and garden, you can go to the city’s website: http://www.worthington.org/833/McCord-Park-Master-Planning-Public-Open-
After speaking with community gardeners, city staff, and Park & Rec. Commission members, attending the recent McCord Park open house and latest Commission meeting, discussing with residents-at-large, reading the minutes of past Commission meetings, physically viewing the Community Garden site, and looking at design options, I support retaining the garden in its current size and location, or at a minimum in its reduced size as portrayed in the “compromise” plan.
It’s my belief that a visible and accessible community garden (like the current one at McCord) serves the public well beyond the actual food output or number of participating gardeners (important as these are). A well-run public garden fosters community, providing a place where practical wisdom can be readily shared. It demonstrates what’s possible, and reminds us of what’s essential in our relationship with the Earth. Given the marginal health of our nation’s food production and supply this is not a trivial benefit. It appeals to the emerging zeitgeist that yearns for what is local, real, and healthy (look at the success of our Farmers Market). In sum, whatever incremental gains could be realized to the park’s layout through the garden’s removal are considerably outweighed by the garden’s contribution to public education, an ethos of sustainability, and our city’s claim to environmental stewardship. To reduce, remove, or minimize the garden in any way would be a step backwards, not befitting the tradition of enlightened civic policy and engagement that is a hallmark of Worthington.
(I’d like to add that the proposed alternative sites all lack the key advantage of visibility and accessibility that McCord offers, are all flawed in basic operational/physical ways as a potential site for our city’s primary Community Garden, and as a result are desirable only as possible secondary or tertiary sites for an expanded garden program).
In assessing this issue, I think it’s important to take in to account the public comments on the McCord Park Master Plan (and Community Garden) that were solicited and received at the 3/12/18 public open house and online through 3/19/18. I’ve read through all of the comments and have attempted to tally them in a meaningful way.*
As I counted them, there were a total of 181 comments (25 Post-It notes, 30 POD pad notes, and 126 online). I put each comment in one of four categories (in a few cases this was not simple to do, but I made an effort to not count any comment as being positive toward the garden unless it was plainly so): Positive toward the garden, Neutral (or advocating a compromise in some manner) toward the garden, Negative toward the garden, and NA (comment did not mention the garden but focused on other park-related issues). Given the interpretive qualifications I have described, I counted 120 Positive comments, 9 Neutral comments, 26 Negative comments, and 26 NA comments. If you take account of the 155 comments related to the garden, then 77% were Positive toward the garden, 6% were Neutral, and 17% were Negative.
- I view public comments as an important element in discerning where the balance of public opinion rests, but not simply in terms of the number of “votes” (because this can sometimes be skewed in a self-selecting public opinion poll) but also in terms of the sentiments, reasons, logic and values articulated through the comments. Given this, I would urge interested readers to go to the city website and spend some time reading through the comments themselves (http://www.worthington.org/DocumentCenter/View/4761). You’ll find everything from, “It [the garden] is an eyesore. It is only used by a select few…”, to “If you see this as an eyesore you fail to understand the visual link this provides the community to its historic roots,” to this nugget: “In a world where kids are addicted to their screens and feel a disconnect from community and nature, I’m glad they see that food comes from real people working the ground…” I hope this information and commentary contribute positively to our public decision-making process. For more information on the park and garden, you can go to the city’s website: http://www.worthington.org/833/McCord-Park-Master-Planning-Public-Open-