From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature
Related Categories: Santa Cruz Indymedia | Environment & Forest Defense | Global Justice & Anti-Capitalism | Health, Housing & Public Services
An Account of the Destruction of a Community Park
by @ gardener
Tuesday Dec 6th, 2011 2:54 PM
On December 6, 2011, contractors working for Datum Construction Management demolished a community park in Santa Cruz. Before the park had been put in my members of the community, the lot had been dead space and full of rather undesirable things. The community park changed the space entirely, but it appears those in control of the space (for now) would rather it be an ugly lot of dirt.
A new community park that popped up over the weekend in an empty lot behind the Saturn restaurant was destroyed this morning. The lot had been a dead space full of trash and other undesirable things for decades until community members cleaned it up and put in beds of plants. The park changed the way the corner felt entirely, but it appears that the incoming Walgreens and the contractors working for them would rather the lot be an ugly lot of dirt.

At around 8am this morning, Datum Construction Site Manager Jason Reisinger and his employees began fencing in the community park, even though there were a few people sitting in the park enjoying it. Reisinger came and told people they had to leave the park. He said that if people didn't leave, he would call the cops. Before he finished his sentence, four cars of police he that he obviously had already called arrived on Spruce Street. The folks in the park seemed to be confused and upset, but complied with the police demands that they leave the park. The police left and the fence went up the rest of the way.

As Reisinger put up the fence, people asked him if he knew what the plans were, and if he planned on bulldozing the garden right away. He said his orders were just to put up the fence, that he wasn't sure what the plan was, and that there should be a pamphlet on site soon describing what landscaping would happen in the lot.

After about 20 minutes, the sound of a tractor hitting concrete planters drew neighbors and passersby toward the lot. People rushed out to the lot, running around or jumping over the fence to stop the tractor from destroying any more plants. Reisinger, who was driving the tractor, called the police again. Angry verbal exchanges were had, and then one angry person grabbed some handfuls of dirt and mulch from the ground and shoved it down the bulldozers exhaust pipe. Outraged, Reisinger shouted "you're destroying private property!"
"You're destroying our park!" people yelled back at him.

More and more police showed up, as did more and more upset neighbors and friends. Reisinger called United Rentals, bumbling an apology that he hadn't returned the tractor yet because there were too many people in the park yesterday to use it, and now he needed someone to come check it out to make sure it wasn't going to break if he turned it back on. The tractor was out of commission for about an hour before a maintenance person from United Rentals showed up to see if the tractor was damaged. The repairman cleared it for use. Reisinger got back in the bulldozer and turned it back on, blowing soil and mulch up in the air. He then spent most of the next hour destroying the garden under the protection of about a dozen cops.

The garden is gone for now, reduced once more to a pile of rubble. While those of us who spent hours working on beautifying the park are angry, we are still hopeful that we can come together to build an even more vibrant and beautiful community park in its place.

All photos are taken with permission from Margaret Killjoy's Flickr:

§Private Property
by @ gardener Tuesday Dec 6th, 2011 2:54 PM
§Fenced Off
by @ gardener Tuesday Dec 6th, 2011 2:54 PM
§Coming Soon
by @ gardener Tuesday Dec 6th, 2011 2:54 PM
§Fenced Park
by @ gardener Tuesday Dec 6th, 2011 2:54 PM
by @ gardener Tuesday Dec 6th, 2011 2:54 PM
§Close Up
by @ gardener Tuesday Dec 6th, 2011 2:54 PM
by @ gardener Tuesday Dec 6th, 2011 2:54 PM
by @ gardener Tuesday Dec 6th, 2011 2:54 PM
§Bad Decision
by @ gardener Tuesday Dec 6th, 2011 2:54 PM
by @ gardener Tuesday Dec 6th, 2011 2:54 PM
§Lone Survivor
by @ gardener Tuesday Dec 6th, 2011 2:54 PM
§The Park
by @ gardener Tuesday Dec 6th, 2011 2:54 PM

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by S. Pacific Neighbor
Tuesday Dec 6th, 2011 3:16 PM
Just received the "plans" from the current owner of the lot where the DIY garden was. These are the plans that were the supposed justification for why they needed to bulldoze the garden. Wanna guess what the plans were? A half dozen ornamentals planted on the edges of an empty vacant lot filled with a layer of woodchips. That's the plan.
by @@
Tuesday Dec 6th, 2011 11:59 PM
really very heartbreaking. incredibly upsetting to see all their hard work destroyed, and also to be replaced with a corporate "garden"...
by ppr
Wednesday Dec 7th, 2011 10:55 AM
Vandalizing a private vehicle is not protesting. Is it sad that this community garden is gone? Sure. Is it surprising? Not in the least. 'Reclaiming' private land is not legal. The people that built it were just looking for a reaction. As much as I agree with idea behind this project, in reality anything you build on private property without the owners consent is doomed. Please focus your efforts on realistic, sustainable projects. The tactics of recent are not productive.
by greenthumb
Wednesday Dec 7th, 2011 10:58 AM
I have a question for anyone involved with this garden. Where did the plants come from? Were they reclaimed from someone else's private property?
by S. Pacific Neighbor
Wednesday Dec 7th, 2011 10:02 PM
The plants were donated from various nurseries and growers from around town, including the homeless garden project, and from the gardener's personal gardens. Your insinuation that the plants themselves were stolen is not welcome.

The compost, topsoil, mulch, and concrete were also donated. Turns out many people are into having beautiful community gardens.
by greenthumb
Thursday Dec 8th, 2011 10:47 AM
No insinuation was made. I simply asked questions. It seemed appropriate to clarify the origin of the plants seeing as the gardeners don't seem to recognize private property.
by S. Pacific Neighbor
Friday Dec 9th, 2011 1:48 PM
I think there is a moral distinction between property (initially stolen from indigenous people, to be fair) being put to use for the benefit of the community and private property hosting a blight that hurts the community.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems in this country that there is a near obsession with private property, regardless of how it is used or who it benefits. So for instance, that is a lot that sits empty and full of trash for 20 years, an eyesore or worse to people that live and work there. But dare some gardeners plant a garden on that vacant land benefiting everyone in the community, and they are the criminals violating the rights or the poor landowner (who in this case is a corporation based in Idaho). Am I missing something?

Understand that I am a homeowner and a business owner, not a person who doesn't understand the concept of private property. If I let a piece of land in a downtown area go to trash for decades and neighbors built a garden, I would have some concerns, sure, but would, in general, be stoked.

Who is not in favor of gardens, even if they are planted without the landowners permission on vacant land?
by Leslie
Monday Dec 12th, 2011 11:24 AM
How frustrating that such a cool project that could be useful to the community was destroyed. Here's another story about the recent Santa Cruz actions.
I'm not from the area, so what really struck me was Santa Cruz's ridiculously restrictive laws about "loitering" and public space.