Saturday, April 18, 2009

Gardens and Politics

The two - gardens and politics - should not be mixed! At least, that certainly is the case with our new Cordata Community Gardens. It seems the leaders of the Cordata Neighborhood Association are bickering with those that have been designing and leading the startup efforts of our garden and with the City of Bellingham, Public Works, Water, Permitting and Planning Departments. People are threatening to quit - or have already resigned - and the master gardener working with us threatens to walk off the project too. "Taking the deal we're getting on the dirt because of his contacts with him if he goes," he said, if an apology is not received.

We gardeners within listening range are being told that the City of Bellingham has "shut down" our garden anyway by not allowing delivery of the soil needed to fill the raised beds without some sort of approval process from them first - and they (the City) will not put in our water meter, further stalling the start of water service to our garden. It really does sound as if we have been "shut down"! We gardeners feel caught in the middle! Is this a power struggle? Is it political? Is it personalities? Is it drama? Please don't expect us to take sides!

We just want to garden! We've signed our contracts and paid our money. Now we just want to plant our seeds and watch them grow - to save some money this growing season by raising our own fresh, organic produce to add to our family meals.
Meanwhile, instructions from our "leaders" said we must sign up to work a shift in the garden this weekend and place three layers of cardboard in the bottom of our assigned raised beds. Upon arrival at the garden at my designated shift, I was surprised to see that ALL of the beds had already been filled with cardboard. So filled was mine, however, that it was half full in some places!No doubt filled by a well-meaning volunteer (thank you, I think!). When no volunteer shifts are scheduled, I shall go and remove the excess layers of cardboard from my spot so that if the City ever does grant permission for the delivery of our soil, there will at least be adequate room in my spot to add enough dirt in which to plant my seeds. Then, let's just hope for rain in case that delay in getting the water meter installed drags on.
Hopefully, this is not a sign of what to expect for the rest of our gardening season! Why is it that I'm feeling secretely delighted to be already on the waiting list with the City of Bellingham for one of their already-established community garden spots for next year?!
Turns out the Cordata Community Gardens and Cordata Neighborhood had never submitted their 501c not-for-profit paperwork and the gardens really was not qualified to accept any of the grants they have ben already awarded, and were turned down for others. Scurrying around and bickering amongst the board members, rumor in the garden was that they ended up using the Boys and Girls Club 501c number so that they could keep the WSU Mary Redmond and City of Bellingham Small and Simply Grants monies. Later some of the board members resigned from the board, but continue to oversee the operations of the gardens. One day while I was there pulling weeds from in and around my little garden spot, the President of the Cordata Neighborhood Association came by for her own private tour. She stopped at my garden to visit with me as I worked and informed me that the people in charge of this garden needed to pay back the monies the neighborhood assocition had provided them as "seed" money to get the garden up and running. Just amazing!

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