Greenbelt City Council has pledged to take action on gardeners' complaints that too much community garden space is being lost to tree shade.
Space has been lost over time, as evidenced by photographs of the gardens' historical borders. The Greenbelt Community Garden Club showed Greenbelt City Council members photo after photo of shrinking gardens at a work session Wednesday.
"The gardens have not ever encroached on the forest," Bob Trumbule, Hamilton Place garden area coordinator, told council, making reference to Greenbelt's protected forest preserve. In fact, Trumbule made the case that if anything the forests were encroaching on garden space.
In a city big on history, John Henry, club vice president, went to history for backup. The forest preserve was established in October 2003, and Henry brought council back to 1937—the date the community gardens came into being and the year Greenbelt was established. In addition, in 1939, there were 350 garden plots on a 280-acre tract, Henry told council.
Resident Lore Rosenthal pointed to a more recent date for support—2012 and the last massive power outage. At that time, there was only three-days worth of food in the state of Maryland, she said.
Councilmembers neither disputed the history or value of Greenbelt's community gardens.
Councilmember Edward Putens advocated defining the borders of the community gardens by going back in time to determine historical markers. No final date was agreed to, but council and garden club members discussed the possibilities.
"Let's define it so we can get past it," Putens said and called for a permanent marker on the boundaries once they were determined.
Councilmember Rodney Roberts recalled his participation in a 20-year fight to have a forest preserve in Greenbelt. The people fighting for the gardens were the same ones who fought for the forest preserve, he said, adding that he saw no reason the city couldn't have both.
Gardeners, council and garden club members collaborated on a plan of action to address community garden issues. Mayor Judith "J" Davis recapped them, saying the plan was:
1) The Greenbelt Community Garden Club will provide council with maps and then work with Lesley Riddle [assistant director of public works] to determine a permanent definition of where the garden plots are.
2) Once council has the definition of where they are, then the city will start to deal with trees, the shade and tree canopy, and so forth. This might mean at some point, there will be a marker of some kind at the different borders—so that people will know this is the garden area.
3) Once those are set up, there will be an area that's going to be bush hogged [around the community garden borders].
4) Meanwhile, the Greenbelt Community Garden Club will look at the Memorandum of Understanding that the city drafted and come back to the city.
5) Everyone will look at the city's sustainable land care policy. And the garden club will have its own policy that it can work on with regard to herbicides and pesticides and fertilizers.
- City Manager Michael McLaughlin also said he hoped that before a separate policy is created, the garden club will review the policy and forward suggestions to Riddle. He asked to see what could be incorporated before a commitment is made for a separate policy.
- Councilmember Leta Mach also suggested that a vegetable garden section could potentially be part of the policy.
6) A system will be worked out on permits for allowing garden club members to dump waste at Northway Fields.
"We are not in conflict, we do not intend to be in conflict," Davis said, closing the meeting. "We do want to save our forest preserve, we do want to encourage gardening. We just want to be able to do it so that everybody can live together."
Greenbelt residents who want more information on the Greenbelt Community Garden Club can contact President Martha Tomecek by email at email@example.com