community gardens, city planning

jack rowe 75554.631 at
Fri Aug 16 15:58:11 EDT 1996

Re: the request for ideas concerning city planning for community gardens from E.
J. Gelsi of  Australia [s100962 at], repeated below for those on
the NCSU pc mailing list...

>> I am currently doing a masters in social planning and development at the
University of Queensland. I am reviewing whatever literature I can get my hands
on concerning community gardening/city farms. Originally I hoped to provide a
social profile of the participants in community gardens in Brisbane; this
however seems a little simple. I was hoping for any different ideas from this
list, for instance any policy issues that practitioners of community gardening
would be concerned about. If you have any ideas please let me know!<<

	Good ideas are one thing, fortunately and wisely Mr. Gelsi just asks for
different ideas. My pet idea involves retrofitting of existing suburbs, since we
have so many of them already. Anyway, actually planning our cities ahead of time
-- like before they are built -- is just a little bit too radical, by the looks
of things.

	The average suburban block is two rows of houses back-to-back, with yards
backing onto city-easement alleyways in between. What a nice, park-like
atmosphere our 'burbs would have if each of these alleyways were [perhaps
widened just a bit] and then developed into parkways and/or gardens, complete
with bicycle paths, swales and community fruit trees, basketball courts, swards
and thickets (birds love thickets), wildflower meadows, etc. 

	At an extreme of planning, different blocks could be developed along
different themes. There could be blocks of houses for folks with kids, with
grass and some play equipment between, fenced from streets for a small measure
of security, parents rotating duties watching the kiddies. Alleys in blocks of
homes for elderly could have a quieter setup, with benches, tables, a gazebo or
two, fruit trees, and the bird-attracting thickets. Blocks of kids and quieter
folks could alternate for the convenience of older people who actually like kids
(I love kids, myself. Read some great parenting advice recently, from Robert
Orben -- "Never raise your hand to your children; it leaves your midsection
unprotected"). Alleys not used to corral kiddies could have bike paths wending
through and connecting different blocks (crossing streets with bike paths would
need thought, beyond my preferred method of speeding up and keeping my head
down). Small community gardens would be easy to locate every couple of blocks.
Many cities are starting to compost yard wastes, and the local towns doing this
here in Texas have difficulty giving the resulting compost away free (it's not
trash, just yard wastes -- mostly just leaves and grass clippings with the odd
can of roach spray -- perfectly harmless). 

	Anyway, just the bare bones of an idea. Probably most alley right-of-ways
would have to be widened by 10' - 15' on either side (they are typically 12' in
my town, 35' would do fine for many purposes). People might actually get to know
their neighbors again, but there would be good points, too. If setups like this
were actually planned before the cities in question were built (nah!),
cul-de-sacs could be generously used, and the bike paths and parkways thereby
made much more continuous. Every several blocks could be given over to small
market strips with bread shops, farmers'/gardeners' market days, etc. Cities
built to facilitate the growth of humans instead of dollars.  Oh, well, Jack.

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