Five months ago a battle began with my city about the area of land behind my property line which I have turned into a garden. Little did I know there would be a national uproar about this garden and the issue of guerrilla gardening would be debated around the nation because of my own little garden plot of love. Here’s a link to that original story – LINK.
A lot has happened since that original post when I asked for my readers help. The story was covered on radio stations and featured on WGN News national TV (see the video feature above). I submitted 10 pages of paperwork and paid the fees as requested. I did what the city asked of me – removed a ton and a half of rock bordering the garden, rebuilt sections of the garden, painted the park benches, moved them, and more. I did all this so I wouldn’t have to pay the $75 per day fines related to me not paying the original fee.
My heart, however, is still sad about this situation. What person in Warrenville, Illinois is going to want to build a garden and pay a fee and submit a 10 page write up and have the city inspectors come out so they can build a simple garden behind their fence? Worse yet, only a handful of people were selected to be “policed” on this issue even though thousands of people have right-of-way guerrilla gardens in our city. That is called “selective enforcement” and made my family and I feel as if we were selected because the city does not like us for some reason (trying to imagine what that might be makes me very upset).
If you were considering building a garden to help feed your family and you wanted to use the right-of-way area attached to the back of your lawn, or next to the hell strip street area, or around your mailbox, how would you be able to tell if YOU are going to be enforced and your neighbor is not with this type of selective enforcement in the city? The answer, of course, is to go back to the concept of doing the damned 10 page write up and paying the fee – which is ridiculous in my mind. I can definitely see working fairly with the city by following the city rules for planting and perhaps submitting a drawing of the garden, but forced filing fees and 10 page write ups seem they are discouraging city beautification, not encouraging it.
Just this week I walked the streets of Chicago, Illinois (photo above right) and saw gardens all over the right-of-way areas up and down streets and these residents do not have to pay anything for these gardens to the city. They live with #NOGARDENTAX and the gardens are beautiful, unique, and contribute to their neighborhoods.
In our current economy, more people than ever need to grow fresh vegetables, beautify their communities, reduce crime, and BUILD COMMUNITY. We need to do this because it helps us feed our families and keeps businesses in our local towns. It also keeps our home values up. Gardens build local community in ways that extend far beyond my small list here.
Below is a photo of part of the garden I took this morning. It made me smile because it is in full bloom. When I stepped outside the fence to check on the garden a neighbor hugged me. That made me smile again. Why? Because this garden is good and right and needs to be here in my neighborhood. I want more people to build gardens and spread love in our neighborhoods, not be reticent to do it because they are afraid of their city.
How has your garden touched your community?