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.