TDOT Demolishes Carver Food Park Community Garden

Carver Food Park Community Garden, at the corner of Gale and Lealand in the 12South Neighborhood, was certainly a raised bed of controversy. But is this any way to resolve it?

TDOT Bulldozes Carver Food Park

I don’t know all the whys and wherefores behind today’s destruction of Carver Food Park Community Garden.

The disagreement, apparently, roots deeper than topsoil: some neighbors call the place an eyesore, and a trash dump; Carver volunteers say one man’s trash is another man’s compost; and TDOT workers who’ve waded into a nest of angry local food advocates and TV cameras are just bewildered. “They told us we were coming to move some homeless people,” said one worker, shaking his head.

What everyone seems to agree on is that the park’s founders had the best of intentions: to create a public garden that would grow food, beautify the neighborhood, and produce rich compost from the surrounding neighbors’ leaf litter. Whether Carver and its founder and volunteers succeeded in that intention of late seems to be the main point of disagreement.

The point is: is bulldozing the park the best way to bring opposing sides together? Local food advocate Cassi Johnson sighs ruefully. “This could have been resolved,” she says, watching the backhoes at work.

It certainly won’t be resolved now.

3 thoughts on “TDOT Demolishes Carver Food Park Community Garden

  1. You have told a half story with half truths here. But, with this kind of half-information, you are correct that it won’t get solved now.

    1. The park was not demolished, it was removed of items- including compost- that violated codes.

    2. It may be that one man’s trash is another man’s compost, but does that include toilets and abandoned vehicles? Really? We can put items like that in a compost?

    This is, sadly, one of those events where each side (the Earth Matters non-profit and the nearby residents who complained) would rather play victim than acknowledge problems and come to an agreement. The repeated misinformation that they “destroyed the park” is an emotional tangent that serves no purpose other than to inflame people. The truth is- it is TDOT land; TDOT allowed the space to be used for a community garden, but it has, in part, become a dump. Those who just claim dumping trash there is a matter of personal preference and ignore the codes violations- well they are doing those who run other community gardens a disservice with their weak response to others in the community. If they want to use PUBLIC land for a COMMUNITY project, they shouldn’t be so dismissive of others’ concerns. And those who are complaining need to suck it up and deal with the community members doing the garden rather than simply turning them in.

    What kind of society is this where people won’t talk to one another and won’t acknowledge the concerns of others for fear of weakening their own half-truth position?

    • Many fair points here, thank you! I typed this as the events progressed. To be a fair and complete story, as we’d expect from a journalistic piece, we’d need much more information–attributed quotes from many players in the drama, a backstory. and an update once the bulldozers drove away. But this isn’t a journalistic piece; it’s a quick blog post that admits to knowing very little about the backstory and merely poses a question.

      Thanks for your ideas and opinions. As I said, I know little about the arguments that led to Friday’s actions, but it’s quite clear that those arguments were many, and quite passionate, and that (as you point out) the parties involved never managed to come to any kind of civil agreement. And this is a controversy surrounding a garden. Not a thing that would seem to be controversial. Unfortunate, all in all.

  2. Here are a few more facts: The park was started as a community garden but less food was grown there than in my own backyard garden. The site morphed into a football field sized compost dump that collected leaves from counties all over. The director had worked for waste management and turned it a waste management annex. And with only a handful of volunteers unbagging leaves a few hours on weekends, the leaves piled up in their bags. Not to mention the mess. There were 3 abandoned vehicles that sat for years, old abandoned toilets, makeshift outbuildings. The site also doubled as a kind of personal community center for parties the director threw for friends and supporters. Parties with loud amplified music for which there were no permits. There was even a sound stage built. Does this sound like necessary gardening equipment? Neighbors appealed FOR YEARS to the director of the park to clean it up, but he told them he saw no problem. How’s that for insensitivity? Finally Codes came in and cited them for numerous violations. That’s when TDOT told them to clean up and gave them 2 months. In that time they made no attempt to clean up…it was business as usual. They missed one deadline…then another, then finally TDOT asked them to please sign a letter saying they at least intended to clean up. They refused. This letter with their refusal is public record is on the Tennessean website. So TDOt came in and cleaned up for them. They did not bulldoze the garden, they used it to take down the fence so they could get trucks in. The garden is the precisely the thing they did not touch. But they removed several dump trucks and a semi (!) worth of yard-sale type junk that the director had hoarded in the outbuildings (the greenhouses were filled with lamps refrigerators, china figurines, etc.). Now the place is clean, and the garden beds are free to be planted, but Earth Matters is not planting anything there, just some neighbors. Earth Matters is spending their energy with lawyers trying to sue, etc. It wasn’t even their land, but they came to feel it was. Problem was, they were not very good stewards of the land and their hubris ruined it for everyone else. It was a noble idea, and in the hands on someone else could have been something wonderful.

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