A Tale of Two Gardens

At the Hazelwood Community Garden, it is the best of times; for gardeners at the Earl Boyles Community Garden, vandalizing punks made it the worst of times. See what Portland’s Parks Commissioner plans to do about that …

In the shadow of the Hazelwood water tower, Hazelwood Community Garden manager Richard Larson shows off some of his crop.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
It was a joy to visit the Hazelwood Community Garden, under the water tower in outer Northeast Portland, a couple of weeks ago. And, as we’ll also relate in this article, it was heartbreaking to talk with a gardener whose carefully tended plots were torn up by vandals at the Earl Boyles Community Garden – once again – this week.

Sun shines over Hazelwood Gardens
It was a beautiful July Saturday morning when we visited Richard Larson, the garden manager for the Hazelwood Community Garden. This is the second year for the garden at the Hazelwood Hydro Park, next to where the East Portland Neighborhood Organization office is located – at NE 117th Avenue and Holladay Street, between NE Glisan and NE Halsey Street.

“This is the second year for this garden,” Larson said, as we walked toward his plot. “We’re having an open house to let everyone see the all the different ways that people are putting their garden plots together.”

“Community gardens are important because it helps people provide food for themselves, and for other people, as well,” Larson told us. “We have people who grow for themselves and their families. We also participate in the ‘Food for the People Program’ – we dedicate a certain amount of food from plants, or a plot of land, for food banks and people who really need the food. We give some of our produce to the Shepherd’s Door Program.”

The Hazelwood garden features 30 plots, Larson said, ranging from 4′ x 8′ to 20′ x 20′. “It doesn’t take much land to grow a garden and have fun.”

Larson shows off wax beans, almost ready to harvest.

Likes growing his own food
“I got involved in the program because I wanted a place to grow my food,” Larson said. “It gives me something to do.”

Larson pointed out his crops: “I’ve got potatoes, cucumbers, acorn squash growing up on the fence, flowers, and more potatoes in the corner. And then, I’ve got butternut squash growing on the rest of the fence. Over here are tomatoes, green beans, yellow wax beans, broccoli, beets of varying types, and cucumbers. Then, there’s the bell peppers, and Zinnias. I’ll have plenty of food here. In fact, we’ve already been giving some away to other people.”

Samantha Dulude and Gordon MacDonald are installing a drip irrigation system keeps their crops hydrated, even on the hottest days, with virtually no water waste.

Partners in growth
Next to Larson’s plot, we met gardeners Samantha Dulude from Parkrose and Gordon MacDonald from Russellville. They both work at Providence Hospital, and decided to partner on a garden plot, MacDonald said. “I don’t have a place to garden where I’m living; this is the ideal solution for both of us.”

The two were busy installing a drip irrigation system. “It makes watering much easier, Dulude said, and it really conserves water because you’re only watering the plants.  There’s almost no evaporation loss.”

The pair happily showed off their well-growing lettuce, carrots, peas, broccoli, lilies, beans, honeydew melons and cantaloupe, tomatoes, flowers, cabbage tomatoes, and peppers. “It looks like we’ll have plenty of food this year,” Dulude noted. “We’ve set aside plants for donating food to Shepherd’s Door, and people who need fresh, good food.”

Vandals cloud Earl Boyles Garden’s future

The vandals who destroyed much of this garden might think it’s a merry prank, but their thoughtless actions have devastated neighborhood gardeners.

Earl Boyles Community Garden, in the Powellhurst Gilbert Neighborhood at SE 110th Avenue and Francis Street, is also in its second year.

But, for the fifth time this season, vandals have ransacked this garden, leaving it in shambles – the most recent event was on August 11. The director of the garden program at Portland Parks and Recreation, Leslie Pohl-Kosbau, said the damage at this garden is unlike any she’s seen since she’s been with the citywide program.

Perhaps the delinquent punks who flooded the gardens after they took trampled and ripped out crops think this is a amusing prank – but the thoughtless vandalism has left the gardeners distraught.

Crops were ripped out, trampled, and flooded at the Earl Boyles Community Garden in the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood – some say, for the fifth time this year.

Tears in her eyes
Struggling to express herself using newly-acquired English skills, an immigrant from the Ukraine, clutched her chest as she paused by the garden gate to speak with us. “Bad. So bad. Why?”

She shook her head; tears filled her eyes. She pointed toward the Earl Boyle Park recreation area. “Come from playground. Bad thing. Feel sad. Sad.”

Fish plans ‘Speak-out’ event on August 22

After learning of the situation at the Earl Boyle’s Garden, Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish, the commissioner overseeing the Parks Bureau, started arranging a “Speak-out, Clean-up” event at the garden on August 22 at 10:00 a.m.

“It’s important for neighbors and friends of our Community Gardens to come out and show that vandals are not in control of this valuable community resource,” Fish said.

The community support has been overwhelming, Fish said. “Thanks to everyone who called in offering their assistance and generous donations. Many of you expressed interest in sharing your surplus vegetables from your own garden.  Please bring your contributions to the rally and any extra produce will be donated to hunger relief agencies.”

Commissioner Fish concluded, “We hope you can join us in supporting the community and restoring the garden.”

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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