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WESTLAKE : Residents Begin Work on Garden Project

Residents along one of the roughest stretches of Burlington Avenue may soon see the realization of a dream, as a community garden at Burlington and Maryland Street begins taking shape.

The vacant lot, which neighbors had been afraid to cultivate for fear of gangs, drug dealers and transients who frequent the spot, was fenced in last week, thanks to donations of fencing, cement, labor, soil and funds from the community.

“The only major thing we need to do now is install plumbing and import more soil,” said David Ceaser, a volunteer helping the group.

The lot was acquired by the neighbors last spring with the help of community activists and Rampart Division police. They agreed to maintain it while paying $1 a month on a yearly lease.

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The garden project kicked off in October with a tree planting, but neighbors were afraid to begin planting vegetables and flowers for fear their work might be destroyed.

Many times, when they would go in to clean up trash that accumulated on the property, rough-looking loiterers would harass them verbally, said Nola Mott, a neighbor and community activist who was instrumental in putting the garden project together.

Taggers almost immediately defaced a mural painted by neighbors and their children on the same day as the tree planting. The neighbors decided not to paint over the graffiti until fence was erected.

Part of the fencing was donated by an individual in the San Fernando Valley, and the remainder from a closed-down community garden in Pico-Union.

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Neighbors, volunteers and a few ex-convict recruited by Mott from a Hollywood halfway house helped workers from the Westlake-based Ko-Am Construction Co. install the fence last week. Police cruised by occasionally to make sure the work was proceeding safely and without any disturbance from loiterers.

Now that the fence is up, the group will use donated funds--including $500 from the Hanmi Bank in Koreatown--to install plumbing and bring in more soil. Because the soil on the property was tested and found to contain lead, the group has decided to build raised crop beds in order to avoid contamination, Ceaser said.

If all goes well, the community garden should be in operation by early spring, he said.

Information: David Ceaser at (213) 722-7323; Nola Marie Mott at (213) 736-4512.

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