I-440 area community garden bulldozed following complaints

Friday, April 8, 2011 at 12:32pm

What is likely Nashville’s most high-profile and well-established urban community garden is being bulldozed.

George W. Carver Food Park — located in the Sunnyside/Melrose neighborhood at the corner of Gale and Leland lanes and in the shadow of Interstate 440 — had become both an eyesore and a liability for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, which owns the land and allowed a group of citizens to maintain the small garden and composting operation on it.

B.J. Doughty, TDOT spokeswoman, said the group, called EarthMatters Tennessee and led by Sizwe Herring, had basically allowed the site to deteriorate, moving from its originally stated “green” goal of sustainable crop production and composting to a hodge-podge of uses.

“I don’t know of a single vegetable growing there,” Doughty said. “There were a couple of abandoned vehicles on the site.”

Herring could not be reached for comment.

Carver Food Park has operated on the site since 1989.

Doughty said TDOT had various heavy equipment on the site as of Friday morning. No trees or flowers will be removed.

Doughty said TDOT started receiving complaints from area residents starting in February. Some offered to operate the garden themselves. No neighbors have called to support EarthMatters, she added.

“There were gatherings, live music,” she said. “We got Metro Codes involved.”

TDOT gave EarthMatters a deadline of Thursday afternoon, April 7, to agree to terms involving removal by May 6 of vehicles, structures, mulch, debris, trash and recyclables, and to cease all activities involving amplified music. 

Doughty said EarthMatters could face a fine of up to $10,000 to cover clean-up costs.

Cassi Johnson, a member of the city’s sustainable living community, said she would like to have seen the matter resolved differently.

“I don’t know all of the details, but it’s a dramatic response to something that’s been here 20 years,” she said of the bulldozing. 

7 Comments on this post:

By: whatsit2u on 4/8/11 at 11:16

I have thought that the property the airport bought up at the end of the east runway in Donelson would make a great place for a massive community garden. It has paved roadways and there may still be serviceable water lines along the roadways. Much of it is creek bottom soil too.

By: Joe Citizen on 4/8/11 at 4:54

I don't know why this article says "Herring could not be reached for Comment", he was at the park all day. I was there and he was talking to anyone who would listen. This was not an eye sore. There are not a lot of plants growing there right now because it is early spring and many things haven't been planted yet. This was a place where local people who may not have a place for a garden could garden. Mr. Herrin was notified by TDOT two days before the bulldozers came. He was told that they would not take action until next month. Please go to the George W. Carver Food Park website and see what this place was like. This was a good place with good people that has been destroyed by a few disgruntled neighbors who moved to the area long after the food park was established. I live near the food park and I have been watching it for several years. All of the news articles I have read about this incident have painted Sizwe and the Food Park in a very negative and unfair light.

By: TulipPoplar on 4/8/11 at 5:55

"Had become both an eyesore and a liability" -- Who is this attributed to? Just because one person or 50 people say it's an eyesore doesn't mean it's a fact. Interesting, though, how a casual reader just assumes, yeah, must be an eyesore -- the reporter said so.

"I don't know of a single vegetable growing there." How's everyone's harvest coming along in early April? It's planting season, BJ Doughty. There's an array of well-maintained plants and flowers at Carver Food Park today, next to the rubble of the pavilion and the empty spot that used to be black gold soil that benefited Vanderbilt and Belmont universities grounds, among many other local gardens.

"No neighbors have called to support EarthMatters TN." If we'd known about this before the bulldozer came, I'm sure lots of us would've. But what are we supposed to do, ring up TDOT on a whim to let them know how much we love Carver Park?

"Herring was unavailable for comment." Yes. He was at the park all day, along with lots of supporters and volunteers.

I'm perplexed that a few complaints about minor, manageable things led to a bulldozer destroying something that took 20 years to build. And the reporter on the story didn't dig a little deeper.

Carver Food Park is one of the best things about Nashville. I'm just so sad that this happened, and I don't understand why.

By: karlwithak on 4/8/11 at 7:47

It's amazing the power of less than 10 residents hold when they have the right connections. The greater good is no longer given consideration,

It's happening every day and there's nothing you can do about it.

By: gabster1000 on 4/9/11 at 6:18

Well, I don't blame the neighbors a bit. i live in the area and always thought 'what is that!!?" I went over there and One neighbor said that when their house was on the market, no one would get out of their cars because of the mess. Maybe it can be open for everyone now.

By: LoveLife65 on 4/9/11 at 6:38

As a long time nearby neighbor I will remain anonymous, but I know what has been going on and what has not...and not much gardening has gone on the past few years. It was not always this way. I don't know what changed but something did.

By: fraserjc on 6/1/11 at 8:36

Jim Fraser

It is my hope that the residents who are upset with the Carver Food Park will participate in the healing by responding to the CFP without anger. Everyone wants to be accepted by others as being worthwhile people. That sentiment can be realized with taking a risk to work together, understand the hopes and desires of others, and remembering that we are all capable of being beautiful people. I think that the most difficult thing is to take responsibility for our actions when they have hurt people, and then have the courage and trust to know that if we share our need for reconciliation, it is likely to be bestowed on us. Everyone falls short at times. It is how we respond that opens the potential to be together even with difference.