As a member of the Vancouver Guerrilla Gardening Group, and of course, through this blog, I am often privileged to be in contact with guerrilla gardeners around the world – a very cool feeling! The similar challenges we all face – and of course, the differences – are fascinating to me.
This week, Julia from Berlin emailed our group to let us know about the destruction of Garten Rosa Rose, a community garden in the Friedrichshain neighbourhood of Berlin. The garden, started by a group of neighbours in the spring of 2004, was situated on three adjacent vacant lots. That’s right – the gardeners didn’t own this space.
Julia writes: “The property had been sold last summer to an investor and the new owner never contacted us to let us know; we found out by chance. Despite a lot of moral support from different politicians, ‘nothing could be done’ since it is private property and we have a new fast-track building permit process here in Germany. We have been trying to buy the property ourselves for years but were too slow in getting the money together…”
On March 14, the gardeners of Rosa Rose were evicted by police, a real blow “as the first flowers are just blooming and we are still harvesting winter vegetables and herbs,” says Julia. The account of the garden’s destruction is shocking and sad, and my heart goes out to these Berlin gardeners.
I know there are some people that will say, “but it wasn’t their property – what do you expect?” And part of me recognizes that part of being a guerrilla gardener means accepting the transitory nature of your plantings, and the possibility that your plants could be mowed down by the City tomorrow. But still, I find what happened at Rosa Rose disheartening. I can only imagine how the gardeners must feel.
I wonder if this would happen here in Vancouver. On one hand, despite the rapid pace of development, the City officially has a positive attitude toward community gardens. There’s the Green Streets program, for example, as well as a project to see 2010 new community garden plots available before the 2010 Olympics. And the City was open to a collaborative effect between gardeners and Onni Developments, in which a community garden was temporarily established on an Onni-owned lot downtown. (The gardens will exist for one or two growing seasons or until the development permit is approved for condos.)
On the other hand, money talks. And if green space is in the way, look out. Ultimately, developers have greater sway than do community gardeners. A forcible eviction – such as happened at Rosa Rose – isn’t unthinkable here. When will we value community and green space over the almighty dollar?
In true guerrilla fashion, the gardeners of Rosa Rose haven’t given up and are trying to raise enough money to buy the property back from the developer. To learn more or to help, visit their website.