Monday, December 27, 2010

Community Gardens Are Coming to Richardson

Community garden

No, that's not right. Community gardens are already in Richardson. Three are owned and operated by Richardson East Church of Christ, First United Methodist Church and The Epiphany Episcopal Church. So, what's coming to Richardson? Apparently, only a proposal for the city to pay for water for these community gardens. (See city's proposal here and The Dallas Morning News story here.)

After the jump, my thoughts.

I'm a big believer in community gardens. I'd support the city dedicating some public land for community gardens, perhaps land currently idle because it's not suitable for parks or other public use, or perhaps even good park land in corners of existing parks. I'd even support the city providing water and mulch and fertilizer and tool sheds, much like it provides softball and soccer fields and playground equipment today. Ideally, the gardens would be run by independent groups, like recreational sports leagues are today. I think this could be good use of public land.

What I'm not sure I support is the city giving money to private groups to help them pay for their own community gardens. Now, we're only talking about an estimated $3,200 maximum annual cost to the city with six, 32 plot gardens for 8,000 gallons of water per month. But the low cost prompts the question why, if the cost is so low, the private groups can't afford to pay this cost themselves to operate their own community gardens. Why involve the city at all?

If it were a matter of needing the city to change some zoning ordinances to permit community gardens, fine, let's change the zoning to permit community gardens. But if it's simply a matter of tapping the city for money for a good cause, I'm not sure where this leads. There are plenty of good causes the city could give money to (or reduce fees or taxes for). How does this compare to the breaks the city is already giving others? How does this compare to the breaks the city might be asked to offer still others as well? The cost of doing a full analysis of these questions would possibly exceed the $3,200 that the subsidy is expected to cost, so it might not be worth it to make a big issue of this well-intentioned initiative. Still, I think it's worth some thought while we wait for the tomatoes to ripen.

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