Dear Decaturish – Please save Decatur High’s garden
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Dear Decaturish and the City Schools of Decatur Board of Education,
We are the co-chairs of the grounds committee at DHS and we have been involved with the DHS community garden since it began.
The gardens were started by DHS student Anna Rose Gable in 2008 and have grown through the weekly efforts of our members. The corner of Howard and Commerce—once a kudzu and trash-covered lot—is a productive and beautiful welcome into the city of Decatur.
At the community input meeting with the architects many people spoke to the importance of green spaces and our safe routes to school programs. We were dismayed to see that all of the proposed plans replace the garden and the wooded area adjacent to it with a paved parking lot.
Who are we becoming as a community? On the one hand we say that we want to encourage walking, biking, and carpooling to school to encourage active living and reduce pollution and congestion. But on the other we choose to promote and encourage student driving and more cars on the street.
We say that we are a community that values green spaces and the environment, and yet we treat the existence of a major welcoming green space at the gateway to the city as if it were expendable.
We understand that the gardens sit on valuable land owned by the school system and that the high school is in need of expansion. But we believe there are still creative solutions to our space issues that can preserve our community’s core values. We agree 100 percent that the teachers and staff need parking. We think students can find alternate ways to get to school.
We have been told that a parking deck would be too expensive for the community. Due diligence would require that we look at and compare those costs.
The City of Decatur—with all its urban planning expertise and decades of community input—has chosen to remove surface parking lots and create in their place pedestrian-friendly areas. They’ve hidden the parking in decks.
If you come by the gardens on a weekend morning, you will find it full of parents, students, Emory volunteers, or volunteers from a school club. You will overhear conversations about how the tomato crop was this year, or parents swapping stories about their kids and the schools. An elderly lady might be sharing her knowledge of sweet potatoes with several 4-5 academy students. Passersby and new residents will stop and ask questions about gardening and Decatur.
During the school week, you might find parents working with Chef MacDonald and his culinary arts students to bring the farm to table experience to the classroom. His students have planted in the garden and cooked with the fresh produce. They do not have the time it takes to tend to the garden so the involvement of the community is vital.
We understand there is a place in the plan for a student garden or an optional rooftop garden. The student garden is great, but for it to be successful we will need community volunteers. We have toured and researched rooftop gardens and know they create more problems than they solve and are difficult to maintain.
Ripping up the garden is a mistake; not just because of all the work we have put into making that soil the envy of gardeners but because we know that this means the permanent loss of green space and community-building experiences.
Come visit the garden. Just spend one Saturday morning work day there and you will see what a gem DHS has. Once it’s paved, it’s gone.
Tamara Jones and Moira Bucciarelli
DHS Grounds Committee Co-Chairs