Atlanta Beltline Displaces Community Garden in Southwest Atlanta
By Anna Simonton, Special to The Atlanta Progressive News
(APN) ATLANTA — Shawn Deangelo Walton left a meeting with BeltLine officials on Tuesday, July 29, 2014, with little recourse other than to comply with their demands. The urban gardener and founder of WeCycle will uproot from Ashview Community Garden, taking his youth program to a nearby church by the end of September.
The Ashview Community Garden was established in 1995 on property owned by the railroad company CSX in southwest Atlanta’s Ashview Heights neighborhood.
It flourished until founder Robert Abensett suffered health problems in the mid-aughts [middle of the first decade of the 21st century].
Walton revived the garden in 2011, and started a bike program there.
Atlanta Beltline Inc. has since bought the property, and now is determined to use the space for construction of the Westside Trail.
“We are feeding people out of that garden. We are delivering food out of the garden to a senior living facility. We’re teaching kids about cycling, agriculture, and healthy food. All of that is in jeopardy,” Walton told APN.
WeCycle awards kids with a bike once they complete 40 hours of community service––usually in the garden––as well as bicycle maintenance and safety lessons. Participants live in the neighborhood, many on Fenwood Street, which ends at the garden and has no driveways or sidewalks.
“Once they take this green space away, the only place left to play is the street,” Walton explains.
The program is fundraising to retrofit a shipping container into a bike shop that will be housed
on church property a few blocks away. Walton will also take stewardship of a garden there.
ABI has refused to assist with the cost of relocating, despite allocating 43 million dollars to the Westside Trail project.
“That’s patently absurd,” Rashid Nuri, CEO and president of Truly Living
Well Urban Garden, told APN. “They have $43 million dollars and they can’t help?”
Nuri is one of over 700 people who have signed a petition to save Ashview Community Garden.
“If you put this in the context of all the [housing] projects in Southwest Atlanta that have been torn down, all the Black folks who have been displaced, this is gentrification going on,” Nuri says. “If they want to revitalize the neighborhood, why tear out a garden that’s already existing?”
Walton’s decision to move stems from his determination to see WeCycle’s work continue without a lapse.
But he isn’t giving up on Ashview Community Garden. He’s adamant about holding ABI accountable to maintaining safety and quality of life standards when construction commences around Fenwood Street.
“When the construction is over, we would love to have that community greenspace reverted back to the Ashview Community Garden, perhaps at a grander scale,” he says.