Schuylkill Park Community Garden

This garden started out, as many community gardens do, on vacant land along the Schuylkill River which the gardeners, members of the Center City Residents Association (CCRA), leased from the City for one dollar per year. A park had long been envisioned on this land, and a community garden was not part of the original plan. When construction on Schuylkill River Park began, the gardeners' lease was therefore revoked. After a long struggle, the CCRA succeeded in persuading the City to include the garden as part of the new park.

The crafted gate that marks the entrance to the Schuylkill Park Garden is a sign that this is an unusual community garden. Gates, walls, paths, plaza, and fountain are not built from recycled bricks and cobbles or "found objects", but from new, purchased materials. This community garden is like a new town that was built first by workmen, then occupied later. Wide paths lead from the two gates to the central meeting place; these are bordered on each side by small, square gardens, individual territories separated by straight paths.

Struggle for existence in the face of development is a problem that confronts many community gardens. Here, a compromise was reached. The City permitted the community garden to stay and paid for the construction of new facilities. In return, the City asked the gardeners to maintain flowers along the boundary of the garden and to abide by certain rules. Originally, the City created a highly detailed and comprehensive set of rules that angered many of the gardeners. Although these have now been simplified, they have resulted in a highly organized political structure with elected officers, committees, and schedules.

The struggle had its bright side. It brought people together over a common cause. Mostly, members are grateful that they still have a place to garden. Like community gardeners everywhere, they are enthusiasts: "It's a passion. I've been gardening since I was twelve years old," says one gardner, "It's the one hobby that goes across the age span. We even have infants come in and look around." Park and community garden mutually beneficial. The gardeners have gained permanence and facilities that they could not have afforded otherwise. Visitors to the park enjoy watching and talking to the gardeners. The long flowerbed that marks the garden's boundary is unusual for a neighborhood park. The tall grasses and flowers require a degree of care most neighborhood parks do not receive. They are the gift of the gardeners to their neighborhood.

"This is a god-send. I only have a 10' x 15' backyard."

"This garden is where I come to find peace."

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Last Update: 22 July 1997