Since the Camden Children’s Garden received notice that they were being evicted by the State of NJ, the Save the Camden Children’s Garden Movement spurred much action from community members and concerned Friends of the Garden. One part movement, is a letter writing campaign, where individuals are contacting their elected officials and particularly the very office that is threatening to close the beloved Camden Children’s Garden, State of NJ’s Governor Office of the Treasury. In response, many of the Garden’s supporters are receiving a similar confusing letter to the letter image posted on right.
The State of NJ’s letter in response to the Save the Garden Movement has several confusing and misconstrued statements that the Camden Children’s Garden hopes to point out and clarify to the public:
- The state writes: “Despite what has been claimed, the State is not seeking to stop the Children’s Garden mission of community garden operations— just the opposite,” as per State of NJ’s Associate Deputy State Treasurer, David Ridolfino.
This statement may confuse readers into thinking that the State wants to keep the Camden Children’s Garden – however, they are only offering us office and greenhouse space This offer does not address most of the property known as the Camden Children’s Garden. This action would severely hinder our ability to carry out our programs and our mission. Yes, we do concede that the State is offering a small space that we can lease to hold administrative activities to run a portion of our programs in the community. However, this would also mean that there would be no more beloved safe haven of the Camden Children’s Garden, which is also hub of all of CCGC’s programming and meetings. What the state is not saying is that their plan, would certainly shutdown the Camden Children’s Garden. As requested by the State, Valerie has also prepared a document to answer how the CCGC uses the Camden Children’s Garden to fulfill our mission and why this land is imperative to our programming and what our economic impact is.
- Ridolfino went on to include in the letter: “…the Children’s Garden has been occupying a parcel of State property for years while refusing to acknowledge the State’s ownership interest in that property,”
First, the Camden City Garden Club has been occupying the property known as the Camden Children’s Garden since 1999 after about 5-6 years of planning and fundraising to build the Camden Children’s Garden. In 2011/12, the State of NJ produced a document claiming they owned it and wanted a lease. What about the years 1999-2011????? Land ownership aside, the State’s proposed lease suggested a 30-day term and had a clause that they could evict us “for cause or no cause, no remedies”. As you might imagine, for any organization, especially a non-profit relying on grant funding, it is difficult to run a 4.5-acre garden, employ 32 people and run several community based program with 30 day period. We plan yearly. If we had signed the document, we would have given away our due process rights and our investment of about 10 million dollars would have been in jeopardy.
- The letter also states that the State of NJ wants to ensure that taxpayer property is protected and respected.
The City of Camden’s residents donated this land and for the past 14 years, we have certainly protected AND respected it. If the Camden Children’s Garden were to be closed and dismantled, the Camden residents would be the ones to suffer. Also, would be demolished is that investment, sweat equity, plant life, and even the 1000s of memorials that have been installed to pay homage to individuals.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~MORE ABOUT PARADISE LOST~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Today, Camden has 120 community gardens, 100 family gardens, and 12 school gardens — more than 12% of Camden’s population is eating from community gardens, and most are growing a surplus of nutritious food. Camden gardens produce an estimated $2.3 million in fresh produce each year, according a report by Domenic Vitiello, a University of Pennsylvania professor who has researched urban agriculture in several cities. Gardening is a viable resource for fresh, inexpensive food, especially in Camden , NJ, which is the “US 9 Food Deserts”, with only one full-service grocery store for 76,000 residents.
Mike Devlin, Executive Director of the Camden Children’s Garden, operated by the Camden City Garden Club stated, “We have done so much to nourish the City of Camden, while waiting for 20 years for Coopers Ferry to develop a supermarket. We employ Camden residents at a level of 80%. We train Camden youth for employment and an in school Grow lab program in science for more than 20 years. We now have a Mobile Market Program to deliver fresh food all over Camden and the USDA’s Entrepreneurial Training Program to teach Camden’s gardeners how to grow a surplus and make a profit. For the waterfront had the state and out of state operators of the aquarium offered us a fair return for admission to the garden instead of expecting us to entertain aquarium visitors for free. Instead of the Christie administration imagining they all of a sudden own the land under the garden which the last 5 governors did not claim, maybe they could pitch in and help our community address the food desert crime violence high unemployment safe havens for our youth. That would be a great way to use their time and effort. Wouldn’t it be a benefit to expose all our children to a trip to the Childrens Garden instead of the 10,000 we are able to host.”
READ ABOUT WHO BENEFITS FROM THE CAMDEN CHILDREN’S GARDEN?
Stay tuned to the Save the Garden Blog @ http://camdenchildrensgarden.wordpress.com/save/