From Susan Stephens, Chair of the Encore Park Community Garden (EPCG)
At the Occasion of Earth Day 2014, Downtown Dallas
I was chair of the Community Ministries committee when the congregation of FPC purchased this piece of property several years ago with plans to restore the historic 508 Park building, build an outdoor amphitheater and have a green space within this corner of Downtown Dallas. As a Dallas County Master Gardner, I saw that green space on the plan and thought a community garden would be a wonderful addition to these visionary dreams.
The dream is coming true with hard work and funds from many, many people and fabulous partnerships like the Young Guns of The Real Estate Council. Our EPCG committee has been meeting for about 2.5 years -for most gardeners the planning and waiting is hard since we are anxious to get our hands dirty. Already in use is our temporary bed where we are raising produce that has been distributed to the families of the ESL program at The Stewpot and Abigail has been using the garden with her Horticultural Therapy clients.
Our vision of Encore Park Community Garden is a place for people to regain their roots and plant second chances. Our community garden will break down barriers between people:
• Economic barriers
• Social barriers
• Racial barriers
• Religious barriers
• Barriers of age, physical ability, and having a home or not
It will be an inclusive space - open to everyone. We will start small and learn as we go but within a year or two I hope to see individuals working in their garden plots sharing their gardening best practices with one another – and one of these gardeners may live in one of the beautiful new expensive town homes being built in our neighborhood just blocks away and the other may not have a home of their own and be a client of The Stewpot. But they see one another as valued and loved children of God.
A little history of gardening in downtown Dallas includes William Ross’ garden: In the mid to late -1800s there were two brothers named Ross living in the area that is modern day Downtown Dallas. In fact Ross Avenue is named for these two brothers and their home was located on what we now call Ross Avenue near the current day intersection of Ross and Akard. One of the brothers, William, was very interested in horticulture. According to a Dallas Morning News article from April 1922 (92 years from today’s Earth Day), William cultivated a garden near his home in the mid to late 1880s. The skeptics thought he was crazy – that this was not a proper place for a garden but in fact his garden is attributed to be Dallas’ first Kitchen Garden.
With EPCG our dream is to again take a barren plot of land and use it to reconnect people with growth and new life in a garden in this corner of downtown Dallas.
To paraphrase the Parable of the Sower from the Gospel of Luke, this is the story where the Sower spreads seed. Some of the seed lands on hard ground, other seed finds shallow, rocky soil and still more seed falls on soil filled with thorns and thistle filled soil - but some of the seeds lands on fertile soil. Our hope is some of today’s seed will find good soil in Encore Park CG and yield hundredfold.