April 20, 2011

Dear Editor,

I?want to commend Karl Puljak (director of the School of Architecture), Kevin Singh (assistant professor) and the students in the Tech School of Architechture for their community projects. I understand that those quaint trolley stops in Railroad Park were one of the projects. The most recent is the community garden on Union Street. I’ve seen the garden. The neat little box beds of vegetables are certainly more attractive than the large plot of overgrown weeds that probably would be growing there. However, I’m having difficulty grasping the “community garden” concept or why that area was chosen.

According to the Ruston Daily Leader, April 3, the project was designed to improve the social, living and working conditions of the residents. I?grew up in that area and own a house there that I plan to move back into once I’ve completed the tedious process of refurbishing it, so I wasn’t aware that the social, living and working conditions of the residents needed improving. If so, I can’t phantom how a garden would do that.

Gardening is a southern tradition. Until recently — since the older residents have gone to their reward — there were four or five gardens on every street — in the backyards. I?particularly remember Mr. John Willie Mayfield’s gardens. He had the most fantastic vegetables imaginable; greens, peas, tomatoes, squash etc. Anyone in the neighborhood could go pick a “mess of greens” or whatever else they wanted at will. He also had a huge flower bed of gorgeous blooms — those I’d pick. I loved having fresh flowers in the house during spring and summer. I’d just knock and either Mr. or Mrs. Mayfield would holler out, “Get all you want, baby.” My point being, gardens are no phenomenon to the residents in that area. Like I said, it’s a southern tradition (i.e. Farmer’s Market).

The community garden concept, however, is a fantastic idea for a kid’s project. Cypress Springs fourth and fifth graders planted a garden. There could be a kid’s garden in every neighborhood — a positive learning and outdoor summer activity. Every neighborhood has a vacant lot that the owners, I’m sure, would be happy to donate.

–Shirley Wilkerson Thomas