Hard on the heels of all that community and government love behind the Hunger Free North Dakota project comes Oak Park, Michigan, with a decidely different relationship to gardening.
You may have heard about Julie Bass, a resident of Oak Park who constructed raised beds and planted vegetables in her front yard after the yard was torn up for sewer pipe installation. Despite the garden’s tidy-ness, the nutritional value it provides for her family, and its popularity with the neighborhood kids, the city of Oak Park has ordered Bass to remove the garden or face 93 days in jail.
City code states that all unpaved portions of a site shall be planted with grass or ground cover or shrubbery or other suitable live plant material. The violation ostensibly stems from a disgreement over the meaning of “suitable.”
Oak Park’s Planning and Technology Director Kevin Rulkowski says, “If you look at the dictionary, suitable means common. You can look all throughout the city and you’ll never find another vegetable garden that consumes the entire front yard.” (Action News article link below.)
“Suitable” and “common” (or” commonly-occurring”) do not actually mean the same thing, but that’s hardly the point.
Oak Park is a small and struggling community, like so many others across the country. And like so many other communities, they have complicated codes, ruled, and identities that need to be negotiated and respected.
Right now, Oak Park has an opportunity to enter into a dialogue about its relationship to food, health, environment, and community, and perhaps make some changes. Julie Bass might look like a problem to the city authorities, but she’s really a gift.
You can help Julie and Oak Park by participating in an email campaign addressed to Rulkowski and city council members and managers, gently helping them to see this great opportunity to grow as a community, and perhaps take a page from neighboring Detroit’s community gardening book!
Julie’s blog with helpful press links:
The Action News Story w/video:
Oak Park’s Municipal Cite:
Email addresses for Oak Park’s Technical & Planning Director, Kevin Rulkowski and city council members and managers:
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Thanks to the respondants on http://kitchengardeners.org for providing the emails and CaretoCare for picking up the Action News story!)
(Photo credit: Julie Bass)
I’ve been following this for a bit. It is one of the most bizarre things I have ever heard of.
Well, fuck it, I don’t care what you think. I’m trying to do the right thing.
The U.S. uses nearly 4 terawatts of energy per year (a terawatt is 1 trillion watts). According to Reason magazine’s science editor, Ronald Bailey, relying on the work of MIT’s Daniel Nocera, putting a windmill on every available spot on the globe that has class 3 winds or higher—i.e., winds in excess of 11.5 mph—would produce 2.1 terawatts at best. And we’re not going to be piping in wind energy from the Mongolian steppes. Biomass could produce 10 terawatts—if every person on the planet stopped eating, and we converted all of the world’s crops into fuel for machines instead of people.