As of today I am a volunteer at the George Washington Carver Edible Park in Asheville’s Stephens-Lee neighborhood.
My friend Rowan and I go there often and have been struck by two things.
One, the park is beautiful and a good place to visit.
Two, it is in absolutely desperate need of attention.
When you go there, you can gather nigella seeds, snack on sweet grape tomatoes and pick a bouquet of mint and sweet peas for your living room. Just watch out for condom wrappers, broken glass, whiskey bottles and holes in the boardwalk big enough to catch an unwary ankle.
Last Tuesday I went to an organizational meeting for new park volunteers. It seems that the guy who usually looks after the park is out of town and the park hasn’t had a lick of help or care since April. Four months of neglect.
Today I learned that there is confusion as to who will provide maintenance for the park: The volunteers of the Bountiful Cities Project or the city of Asheville. As the Powers That Be work this conundrum out, this is what is happening to a park full of valuable and beautiful mature fruit and nut trees:
I cleaned up all the garbage I could get today except for the carpet of broken glass on the stairs, the screw-top bottlecaps I could not pry loose from the earth and the garbage under the boardwalk that was too hard to get to. It took me three hours.
I am not squeamish, but when I was done touching the things I had to touch today, even with work gloves on, I marched right to the Stephens-Lee Center and washed my hands.
There were three of us there today including a professional horticulturist who told me a lot about kudzu, which he had written a thesis on. In just three hours we made a tremendous difference. It was deeply gratifying. Kids could play here now.
I love gardens. I love organic fruit and nuts from local gardens. I love to be outside. And I dearly love to open a can of Ms. Saylor’s Finest Southern Whoop-Ass on a commons in disarray.
Below are images that explain why we worked so hard. Because this place is beautiful, and it should be cared for so that the people of Asheville can enjoy it. It should be a place where children can play without finding used condoms or stepping in shattered glass.
This is where the condom wrapper pictured above and a whole big yard bag’s worth of garbage was.
Downtown Asheville and a fig tree that would get a pruning.
I don’t know what this tree is, but it’s beautiful.
One of my favorite things in the garden, an uncommon and uncommonly beautiful pure white mallow:
Aside from figs and mallows, the park has the following:
mulberry (they’re ripe; come on over and get some)
There’s also herbs and flowers. Sunflowers, sweet pea, comfrey, lemon balm, mint, wild violet.
If you’d like to volunteer, call 828-257-4000 or send e-mail to email@example.com.
See you at the park! I do love mulberries.