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Community Garden vs. Atlanta Beltline: Who's in the Right?

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[Image from Ashview Community Garden petition.]

At the end of Holderness Street in Atlanta's Ashview Heights neighborhood sits a community garden. It looks peaceful enough, idyllic even, but all is not well. The garden, which now has a program allowing kids to earn bikes by farming food for their community, was first started in 1995, when the land was owned by CSX. Atlanta Beltline purchased that land from the railroad and according to a statement from Beltline Director of Communications Ethan Davidson, there was an "understanding that the garden would need to be relocated once the land was needed for construction." With a new federal grant that allows construction of the Westside Trail to begin two to three years earlier than originally expected, the Beltline says the garden's time is up. Shawn Walton, a Morehouse student who helps run the garden and the earn-a-bike program, is not moving without a fight.

Although the Ashview Community Garden is actually mentioned on the Atlanta Beltline website ("just getting started," they claim) and shown as a greenspace on 2010 Beltline plans, the Beltline now says it will use the area as an access point for construction equipment.

Concerned residents point out that there are no sidewalks or driveways on the narrow residential street, but there are kids on bikes, elderly people in wheelchairs and pedestrians. Even today, without heavy machinery, neighbors have placed tires in the middle of the road to slow traffic. Turning the street into an access point that runs through the 19-year-old garden would, they say, destroy much of what they've worked for as a community. There is a petition to save the garden that has 343 signatures as of this writing.

The Beltline says that the land was never residents' land to farm on in the first place and that Walton has not only refused offers to find another location for the garden but has also refused to meet to discuss the matter. They say Walton has demanded that the garden be allowed to remain in the same location or be relocated on the Beltline's dime, to which Atlanta Beltline responded, "ABI cannot use taxpayer dollars for this purpose and the $43 million Westside Trail project supersedes any interim use on the site."

Poll results

· The Atlanta Beltline Is Shutting Down This Community Garden? [FoodShed Planet]
· Beltline trail progress prompts pushback from community garden [Creative Loafing]