Expanding the Chain of Community Gardens at Civil War Defenses of Washington
by Deb Merriam
More than 275 garden plots are offered at the Civil War Defenses of Washington sites. These gardens are an important connection between the local community and the National Parks Service. As we think about our project we can think about expanding the connection of producing healthy food for and by the local community. The Second Century Commission report calls for increasing lifelong learning within the parks and beyond and enhancing community conservation and local initiatives to preserve distinctive heritage resources. Community based agriculture is a great way to further this goal.
Community gardens in public parks have a long history but became particularly prominent during World War ll. In Boston, Massachusetts, part of Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace, Community Gardens locally known as the Fenway Victory Gardens represent the nation’s last remaining of the original victory gardens created nationwide during World War II. At that time, demands for food exports to the nation’s armed forces in Europe and the Pacific caused rationing and shortages for those back home in the States. In response, President Roosevelt called for Americans to grow more vegetables. The City of Boston established 49 areas (including the Boston Common and the Public Gardens!) as “victory gardens” for citizens to grow vegetables and herbs.The gardens are named for Richard D. Parker, a member of the original garden organizing committee. Mr. Parker was instrumental in the preservation of the gardens against various attempts to develop the Fens parkland for other purposes. Mr. Parker gardened until his death in 1975. Thanks to his efforts, the gardens are now an official Boston Historic Landmark.
These gardens are not only a wonderful resource for the surrounding community but a popular tourist destination as well. These tiny garden plots each have a personal stamp of their individual caretakers creating a wonderful quilt of flowers, vegetables, trees and shrubs. Often gardeners welcome visitors to explore their plots and share stories.
Community gardens can:
Provide a catalyst for neighborhood and community development
Stimulate Social Interaction
Produce Nutritious Food
Reduce Family Food Budgets
Create opportunity for recreation, exercise, therapy, and education
Preserve Green Space
Create income opportunities and economic development
Reduce city heat from streets and parking lots
Provides opportunities for intergenerational and cross-cultural connections