Scores of volunteers help replant Earl Boyles Community Garden

Find out why even Portland’s “Gardener in Chief”, Mayor Sam Adams, got his hands dirty, joining the many others who toiled to help restore damage done by vandals …

Inner SE Portland gardener Jordan Rhoades came to outer East Portland to help out. “My mom and I have a space on SE Duke Street; I thought we should support the gardening community,” he said.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Not long ago, we brought you the story of how malicious vandals ripped up the Earl Boyles Community Garden, located in the heart of the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood.

But, as many as a hundred volunteers came out on August 22 to spend a day helping repair the damage done to this community garden.

Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs, Portland Parks & Recreation director Zari Santner, Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish, and Portland Mayor Sam Adams are on hand to speak before the “work party” begins.

A matter of city-wide concern
Before the volunteers began uprooting damaged crops, tilling the soil, and replanting starts and mature plants, City officials talked to the crowd present about the day.

“I’m Nick Fish; I have the great honor of being the Parks Commissioner for the City of Portland,” Fish began the brief program.

“A couple of weeks ago we all heard about the vandalism that occurred here,” Fish continued. “Some people have asked me, why does it matter? This is only one of 32 community gardens – why should this be a matter of citywide concern?”

Commissioner Nick Fish says Portlanders are “crazy-in-love” with their Community Gardens.

Looking at the assembled group, dressed for gardening, Fish answered the rhetorical question he posed: “First, if a vandal can strike this community garden, in this neighborhood, he or she can do it anywhere in our city; all of our community gardens can be at risk.

“Secondly, we’ve learned that Portlanders are crazy-in-love with their Community Gardens. Portlanders love to grow things. The Community Garden movement has arrived. Portlanders ‘took it personally’ when someone crossed over the fence here and vandalized this garden.

“Coming here today, we’re making a very big statement. Regardless of where we live or what we do, we’re here to say, ‘Not here, not now, not at this or any Community Garden, we will not allow to happen again’.”

Fish wrapped up his comments, noting that government can’t always prevent bad things from happening. “But the true test of our City is it when something bad happens in our community, people step up and say, ‘We’ll help fix it’.”

Director of Portland Parks & Recreation, Zari Santner, says Community Gardens are a three-decade old tradition in Portland.

Tragic event brings people together
Acting as Master of Ceremonies, Fish next introduced Zari Santner, Director of Portland Parks & Recreation.

“Community Gardens have been a thirty-year tradition at your Parks Bureau,” Santner said. “This garden was established three years ago, in this park, once owned by Multnomah County. With the help of Portland Development Commission and Systems Development fees, we were able to provide a real park space, including a water spray feature.”

Because of the proximity to two schools, and at the request of neighbors, the parks bureau built a community garden at Earl Boyles Park.

“As tragic and sad event is,” Santner noted, “it has brought us together and brought in organizations that will support this garden, and help it blossom even more.”

Because citizens rent garden space, she added, vandals aren’t attacking a public space, but instead, private property. “But, Parks employees are committed to make making sure that it is safe to gather whether you’re playing, or gardening, or playing in the spray fountain.”

Portland Mayor Sam Adams says he’s committed the City to double the amount of Community Garden space within five years.

Mayor thanks contributors
Fish introduced Mayor Sam Adams as the City’s “gardener-in-chief” – telling the group about the mutual concern that there is a backlog of 1,300 people waiting for community garden space. “The Mayor has said, ‘I want you to double our Community Garden capacity’ – and has championed the cause, by putting funding toward this challenge.”

Mayor Sam Adams said that, minutes after learning about the damage done to the Earl Boyles Community Garden, he took a phone call from Commissioner Fish about the situation. “Nick gave me the details and told me how the Parks Bureau was addressing and investigating the situation. And, he told how the community was coming together to make amends.”

Outside the garden, under the shade of trees, more than a dozen boxes filled with ripe vegetables and fruits were available – donated to gardeners who had lost their crops.

“On behalf of the City of Portland, I commend the contributions from Fred Meyer Stores and New Seasons Markets. Thanks to you for making this happen; this is a great Portland-like response to a negative situation.”

The director of the Community Gardens program, Leslie Pohl-Kosbau, tells of the widespread outpouring of concern for the gardeners who lost their crops due to the vandalism.

Rebuilding support comes from far and wide
Next, Fish introduced the Director of the Community Gardens program, Leslie Pohl-Kosbau.

To the volunteers gathered, Pohl-Kosbau suggested, “I encourage you to meet the families who are working in this garden. They put their heart and soul into this garden, and they will continue to do that. We appreciate you coming out and helping them out.”

In the days following the vandalism, Pohl-Kosbau said, they’d received more than 200 phone calls and letters.

“This is a letter from Lynwood, Washington: “We read about the vandalism in the Earl Boyles Garden, and we are sickened by the story. Please accept this [financial] donation and use it in your efforts to assist those who lost a season’s work of labor in one night. These gardens are good for all of us, and we appreciate your effort to promote and protect them’.”

Pohl-Kosbau urged citizens to get involved with Park Watch. “You can help make sure that this is always a safe place.”

Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs asks for citizens’ help to watch over Community Gardens.

East Portland’s top cop asks for assistance
Before the program began, Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs told us, “It makes me feel bad that someone would do this. I also feel bad that someone knows who did this, and isn’t coming forward.”

Crebs said that even anonymous tips are helpful. “It’s not like this is the ‘crime of the century’ you know; it’s a misdemeanor. But we need to bring to justice those who were so willing to destroy the hard work of others.”

Then, during the program, Crebs noted that East Precinct now serves a very large portion of the metro area. “We can’t be everywhere, so I need your help; your eyes and ears. If you see people here doing anything unusual or suspicious, pick up the phone and call 911, if it is a crime in progress.”

With that, Sam Adams called the group to action, saying “Let’s get digging.”

Joy Hopkins and Jack Camp clean their vandalized plot in the Earl Boyles Community Garden.

Couple work to restore their garden space
Two of the gardeners with a vandalized plot at the Earl Boyles Community Garden were Joy Hopkins and Jack Camp.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Camp said as volunteers poured into the garden. “I wasn’t expecting this many people at all. And, there’s an incredible the amount of [plant] starts here.”

Camp said they’d been away for the weekend before the vandalism occurred. “I came out at lunchtime on Monday, and I was just in shock. I wanted to call Joy, but I knew she had a college paper due. So, I started piling everything up.”

Hopkins admitted to being the real gardener of the duo, but had little to say – she was too busy trying to restore her garden. Camp said, “If we don’t have a house – with room for a garden – next season, we’ll be back. But, we live in Southeast Portland near Hawthorne and 20th – our nearest garden has a waiting list of over 100 people.”

Garden restoration album

Portland Mayor Sam Adams welcomes Lents neighbor Judy Welch to the garden work party.

Amie Diffenauer, of ROSE Community Development, helps replant a garden plot.

Within hours, most of the garden was renovated – thanks to the hard work of many volunteers.

(From our Front Page) Not shying away from hard work, Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish and Portland Mayor Sam Adams carry in bags of soil amenities.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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