There is an effort to create a community garden at Healy Field. The Friends of Healy Field group is spearheading a fundraising drive to raise money for the project. The Gazette recently spoke with Gregory Murphy of FOHF about the project.
Question: Where did the idea behind creating a community garden at the field come from?
Answer: Deb Albenberg, my friend and co-organizer, who lives directly across the street from Healy Field on Firth Road, had the initial idea, sometime in 2010. I think she sent the thought out to a Murray Hill neighborhood email list and I got in touch with her, and we started working together, attracting a core group of nine or ten people, who met regularly, hosted and produced countless meetings, garnered over 500 signatures on petitions to the Parks Department, gathered letters of approval from almost every homeowner on the abutting streets, and eventually proved to the Parks Department that the interest and demand for the garden was strong.
Q.: What would the benefits of having a community garden be for the community?
A.: The garden will provide access to land to grow fresh, nutritious food for ourselves and our families. As neighbors from diverse backgrounds work together to tend the garden, learn from one another, and share in the harvest, we hope to learn about various food traditions, get to know and understand one another, and build a caring and resilient community. As the garden will be located near the cut through to Stellman Road, we see the garden as bridging two communities that have historically been separated by the field’s 10 acres. We will reserve space for community groups to offer children, adult ESOL students and seniors a place to learn about growing food and land stewardship. The 100-plus neighbors who designed the garden in a community design process, in the fall of 2015 (led by the pro-bono Community Outreach Group for Design), designed an outdoor meeting area for the community to use as a meeting and event place.
We anticipate that this new public space will be utilized for both planned events and as a place for individuals, families and friends to sit and relax in the shade and enjoy a beautiful garden space.
Additionally, we want to grow fruit trees and shrubs for anyone who would like to harvest, and dedicate extra space to use for donating food locally.
Q: How large would the garden be and how would people be able to join?
A: In the current design, the dimension of the garden are 100 feet by 100 feet, with approximately 40 garden beds, an area for children’s gardens and six raised planters for those with physical disabilities. The Girls and Boys Club of Boston offers an outdoor classroom at the nearby Charles Sumner Elementary School and they will be able to use the garden for this programming (instead of the small raised beds and pots they currently use), as may one or two more children’s educational programs. Other groups we hope to join us include adults and youth at Casserly House and Roslindale’s ABCD program, BCYF and Rogerson Communities.
Q: What is the City’s role in this process?
A: The City, as landowner, certainly had to grant approval for the project to go forward. They will have input into and will need to sign off on the final design. They have committed some funds to the project. We hope they will provide water access.
Q: How much money is the group looking to raise and how can people get involved?
A: The draft budget is $80,000. FOHF hopes that with the $50,000 we raise through the crowdsourcing campaign patronicity.com/healygarden will be enough to get the garden built and functional by next spring. Additional funding will be needed to build out to the community’s vision to include a seating area, a shade structure, and fruit trees. Neighbors are invited to a FOHF Open House, on Sunday Oct. 29 from 3:00 to 6:00 at 49 Firth Road to learn more about the garden, and get a tour of the space. Gazette readers can also email [email protected] for more information.
Q.: Anything else you would like to add?
A: Boston has well over 250 community gardens. Roslindale has just one. In such a high-density neighborhood it is a challenge to find the necessary open space. I am pleased that the Parks Department has responded positively and aligned itself with FOHF’s vision and the Roslindale community’s expressed need and desire.
From 1990 to 1995, I was associate director of Boston Urban Gardeners, a now defunct nonprofit, which assisted people in neighborhoods, all over the city, to convert vacant lots into community gardens. I had first hand experiences of the power of a garden to bring people, of many diverse backgrounds, together for a common goal, and for the common good. These are very divisive times in which we live and I am pleased to be a part of this project, which intends to offer common ground for relationships to blossom across racial, religious, and class divides.