Friday, December 12, 2008

Letter: Choose Gardens Over Mini-Golf

Dear Friends in Arlington,

Having just learned about the proposal for a mini-golf course near my home in Ballston beside the Ballston Common Mall, I would like to make an alternative suggestion for use of the space.

Knowing that such a visible and valuable plot of land probably has many options for development in the future, my proposal can make use of the space immediately, with future development an inexpensive enterprise.

Instead of minuture golf, use the land for agriculture.

My proposal for the lot includes community vegetable garden plots in raised beds surrounded by pine bark mulch.

Community garden plots on public land have been gaining a great deal of attention in urban environments around the United States. The safety of our food supply chains has made headline news recently; our desire to eat local, sustainable and healthy food has become a movement gaining force throughout the country.

Each vegetable bed can be sponsored by a church, community group (Girl Scouts, as an example), or schools. Demonstration beds and classes can teach Arlington residents how to grow their own food in their own yard.

Surrounding the vegetable garden could be rose gardens and wildflower beds, similar in beauty to the Rose Garden in Bon Air Park. The view from outside the garden would be of beautiful flowers, maintained by the award-winning Arlington Master Gardeners program.

The flowers would attract pollinators, such as bees and butterflies to the vegetable beds.

Community gardening attracts young, old, wealthy and people of modest means; which describes the diversity of citizens in that community very well. While working in community gardens, diverse groups of people talk, share and learn from one another.

The entire garden can be surrounded by the black, wrought-iron fencing that surrounds Westover Playground; high enough for children to be safe, but not so high to appear "gated".

With reduced amounts of fresh produce being donated to AFAC from Giant grocery stores, a portion of the produce could be grown especially for them.

As the garden beds would be raised, there would be little concern of contamination from existing soil.

In a few years, when public will or private money is raised for mini-golf, the site can be developed without a large initial investment in the gardening project.

Best regards,
Dan Redmond
Advocate for Regional Food systems and Renewable Energy

Dan's letter, which he emailed to me for posting and to a few others in Arlington, has generated a little buzz. What follows are portions of the responses. Click "comments," below, to add your own two cents. --ST

Hi, Dan.

I really like your proposal. The garden you are envisioning will
be a great community resource and contribute to Arlington's green movement.

Rosa Briceno

I strongly support your proposal for a sustainable, teachable, useful, community garden in Ballston with multiple sponsorship and opportunities for the community and individuals to come together to “grow a row” together.

We find at Tuckahoe the more you improve your grounds, woods and gardens the better is your neighborhood kept clean and the greater is your sense pride in your place, the more it feels like a neighborhood to call home.


Mary McLean
Outdoor Learning Coordinator
Tuckahoe Elementary School
Arlington Public Schools

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The space available is too small for a community garden. The space could be "farmed" by only two or three people. Nevertheless, a "passive" recreational facility would be more neighborhood-friendly than would be a mini-golf course, which would primarily serve to enrich the vendor. Flowers, trees, meadows, benches, etc. would attract many neighborhood residents and would give people a place to relax and converse with each other.
The square footage of available space quoted in the mini-golf RFQ gave the area as 20,000 sq ft, which is 1/2 of an acre. The entire footprint of the site is 40,000 sq ft, which is 1 acre.

Lets say that each plot is 10'x20 feet, which is 200 sq ft. If we have 20,000 sq ft available, that would give 100 plots. Of course we would need pathways, equipment storage, etc. So even if we divide the 100 lots by 2 for service space, we still get an area suitable for 50 10x20 plots. That surely seems like many groups would need to participate in gardening to make this a successful endeavor.

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