Ashland is certainly not the first community to experience this sort of struggle. Town officials see the opportunity for increased revenue from property sales and taxes while residents want to preserve open spaces and prevent sprawl. However, I believe that in most cases, and especially during these economic times, establishing a community garden on vacant property is a wise option if the interest is there, as there appears to be in this town.
I'd be curious to see how easily new homes would sell in this somewhat depressed real estate climate, when others have been on the market for months. As more people are interested in growing vegetables to save money, wouldn't a garden make more sense? Some people may have large yards and can dig up their own property, but others may not have room or enough sun for a plot of their own. Schools and other organizations can use the site and offer educational activities around gardening. Space near the gardens could also be provided for barbecues, concerts, harvest festivals, and other activities that could bring the community together. This may sound a little biased coming from an urban dweller such as myself, but I think involvement in a community garden can lesson the isolation that can come with living in a suburb. Concord, Lexington, and Beverly are just a few of the towns outside of Boston that have established them.
The activists in Ashland haven't given up. They are holding a forum next month to discuss their goals and build momentum. I hope to update you on their progress and explore how community gardens get off the ground in some of my future posts.