Dahlia Square could become a garden spot -- but right now plans are sowing dissension

Categories: Gardening

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The thirty-plot community garden lies in the shadow of Liggins Towers, a brick high-rise full of Section 8 apartments in northeast Park Hill. The property is owned by Zion Baptist Church, the oldest African-American congregation west of the Mississippi, but the garden is relatively new; the Eastside Growers Collective came together in 2009 as the urban-farming movement began booming in Denver. But the people working here today are not the young, white hipsters you find at many community gardens across the city; they're older black and brown men who are digging a hole and tinkering with the plumbing. The hot sun will dry up their vegetables if they don't get the water working.

See also: Crips burned down the Holly in Bloods territory, but can peace emerge from the ashes of Park Hill?

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Anthony Camera
Jabulani Abdalla at the Eastside Growers Collective.
A dusty truck pulls up. Jabulani Abdalla doesn't wash his vehicle; he hates wasting water. The 58-year-old longtime resident of Park Hill gets out and moves over to a wooden bench under a worn pergola, surrounded by sunflowers, tomatoes, greens and peppers. The Eastside Growers Collective has worked to improve the soil, and it shows, but hail has shredded many of this year's crops.

Abdalla remembers when this spot was a trash dump. When gardeners first started digging into the dirt, it was full of glass shards, syringes and crack pipes. Now vegetables flourish. The fresh produce from this garden is a far cry from the junk food at Junior's, a corner store a few blocks away in Holly Square, the last place left in northeast Park Hill where you can buy groceries -- if Flamin' Hot Cheetos, soda and crack-pipe paraphernalia count.

Abdalla has had a garden in his yard for decades, since long before words like "organic," "whole foods" and "permaculture" started sprouting up at trendy urban-agriculture nonprofits. These nonprofits now advocate for front-yard farm stands, raising animals in back yards, gardening without pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and supporting local businesses -- all things Abdalla and his neighbors have done for years. They laugh when these organizations act like gardening is a new thing.

Abdalla looks beyond the Eastside Growers Collective garden, across the street to the Dahlia Square Senior Apartments and the Park Hill Family Health Center and beyond, to an abandoned field surrounded by barbed wire.

Those are the last four acres of what was once the Dahlia Square shopping center, a parcel recently purchased by the Mental Health Center of Denver. This fall, the nonprofit will break ground on a new project on the property -- complete with a farm. But right now, those plans are mostly just sowing seeds of suspicion in the neighborhood.


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5 comments
DenverFastLife
DenverFastLife

Jabulani is a piece of crap who has always sold weed to little children on Bruce Randolph Street, in NE Park Hill. His nephews are the gangbangers who hang out in the Holly, Terrance shot one of them trying to assault him with several others! He failed to mention that of course, because even though he "hates white people and the media", he is smiling in every media op he gets, he is the epitome of a phony, Jafaken (fake Jamaican), so called Black leader. Terrance Roberts is born and raised in NE Park Hill, and did a lot as a Black man, with out Jabulani's or any Black leaders support! If it was up to Jabulani, the Holly Square would still look like a war zone and still would! With his nephews running the joint as any and all real NE Park Hill residents know. Anybody who supports this clown or works with him are fools and deserve whatever plight and blight that comes their way, did he read what he said?

f8tof8
f8tof8

Reading this article reminds me very much of the Five Points where I grew up and how gentrification has altered the character of that neighborhood so much so that it is nearly unrecognizable today and I expect the same will happen with NE Park Hill.   


It's funny how times have changed. In early 80's, my stepdad built a garden in our back yard growing jalapenos and tomatoes for at least three years. To keep stray animals out and to also prevent the winos from stealing the vegetables he built a fence around it. 


One day the city inspector stops by and declares the garden a fire hazard and orders it torn down. At 12 years old I couldn't see how it was a fire hazard and today at 41 years of age, I still cant see how it could have been a fire hazard considering most of the houses in the neighborhood were separated by wooden fences.


Of course longtime Park Hill residents should be skeptical, in the meantime, keep on gardening!


brendac_420
brendac_420

“You made a decision to live in a neighborhood that’s majority of people of color; learn a little bit about their history. Consider where in the bus you want to sit. It’s important to know about the boycotts, to know how people fought the Klan so black people could ride public transportation with dignity. I don’t think we can ever negate that. And we’re not handing out gold stars to anyone who’s living in a black neighborhood for learning about black history; it’s just the right thing to do.

http://ditmasparkcorner.com/blog/neighbors/equality-for-flatbushs-imani-henry-on-gentrification-educating-yourself-the-urgency-of-documenting-modern-brooklyn

Naomi Wolinsky
Naomi Wolinsky

Excellent article. Tragic. I am afraid all of Denver has fallen victim to gentrification. One mans progress is another mans demise. Sad. Thank god for gardens, they give life, food. We need more gardens.

brendac_420
brendac_420

This is a bit long, but a good read on what gentrification does to neighborhoods, & how it affects those with roots in the area being transformed.

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