Community Gardens Uprooted For New Parking Lot, Development

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Next Saturday the R.Y.P.E. Community Garden in Buena Vista will host en event. It's a goodbye party -- the garden will soon be demolished so a parking lot can be built in its place. "Pave paradise to put up a parking lot. Sooo sorry," wrote Atiya Guianese on the event's Facebook page.

R.Y.P.E. isn't the only local green space getting the boot by developers. Sam Van Leer, the founder of a nonprofit called the Urban Paradise Guild, tells Riptide that one of two community gardens that his organization runs is also in need of a new home.

About a month ago, Van Leer said, the owner of a property in Little Haiti where his group manages a garden told him the group should find a new space.

"Though the owner is altruistic and has been very generous with his support to UPG, he has to pay his mortgage," Van Leer says.

The Little Haiti garden covers about three acres and is part of a holistic project to provide low income local families with fresh vegetables while simultaneously educating residents and kids about sustainable food.

The goal with the garden, Van Leer said, was to provide 200 families with 70-square-foot plots for "family gardens" and work in collaboration with local middle schools, including on a program that would have kids send seeds to Haiti. The garden was started in 2012 with the agreement of the site's property owner, but now, after tenants withdrew their support, the owner also reversed course.

"Now, those dreams...are all in doubt," Van Leer said. "It's just disappointing for us on so many levels," he added.

The R.Y.P.E. garden, located at 136 NE 16th Street, faces a similar dilemma. It was established in September of last year, according to the organization's Facebook page, and has been developed by civic-minded volunteers. It's also hosted poetry events in collaboration with O, Miami organizers, and was able to exist because of a generous property owner who let the volunteers use the space.

But the property was recently sold, and the new owner plans to raze the space for a parking lot.

While community gardens have become more popular in recent years, they have also frequently had trouble finding and keeping the long-term space commitments that are needed for a garden to really prosper.

"It takes years of work to grow your soil, to build it up to the level where it's really rich," Van Leer said. "We'll be looking for another site -- we are up against one very common problem, which is in the non-profit world there ain't much money in it."

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