Explain the history and concept of the Highland Park Community Garden.
The Highland Park Community Garden started with a group of neighbors in 2016. We wanted to convert the old beach volleyball court in Rushton Park into a usable space for the community. We worked closely with the Highland Park Neighborhood Association, the Birmingham Park and Recreation Board, Independent Presbyterian Church and ArchitectureWorks to design and organize the project. In Fall 2019, with generous support from private donors and Brasfield &Gorrie, we broke ground.
Highland Park is the most densely populated neighborhood in the state, and over half of community members rent apartments with little to no gardening space. Highland Park Community Garden is actually the first community garden in a Birmingham city park.
How has the garden fostered community?
Spring 2020 was our first growing season, and it coincided with COVID-19 lockdown measures. Throughout 2020, the garden offered an outdoor refuge for people to feel safe, socialize and learn from each other. It created a focal point in Rushton Park and an excuse for strangers to gather and chat. A lot of small interactions that create cohesion in a community have been nearly destroyed by social distancing. The garden has provided a new avenue for connection, while producing something tangible and useful. Our gardeners grew over 150 pounds of produce last season!
Can folks still get involved or are the plots all spoken for?
Because we have a limited number of plots, they are assigned by a seasonal lottery, and are limited to Highland Park residents right now. Support for the garden has been phenomenal, and we have had over 75 Highland Park residents register.
However, there are other ways to get involved. We recently incorporated as a nonprofit, and our mission is to support similar food and gardening projects in Birmingham public spaces. We are looking for enthusiastic folks to join our Board of Directors. You can also donate. Reach out to us via Facebook, at HighlandParkCommunityGarden, or email our program director, Tori McDonald, at email@example.com.