What had been open, grassy area in a Dearborn neighborhood park is now marked with hurricane fencing, a locked gate and heaps of rock matter.
On a fraction of the 2.5 acres on the city’s west side, one can see some peppers, green vegetables and herbs growing, along with numerous weeds. There are stacks of bricks and wooden pallets. A greenhouse is pocked with holes from rocks people have thrown over the fence.
Started more than four years ago through a lease with the city, this is the Crowley Park Sustainable Organic Farm.
Located in a neighborhood southwest of Michigan Avenue and Telegraph Road, the farm was envisioned as a sustainable source of healthy, eco-friendly food for neighbors and people in need. But lately, it illustrates the challenges of urban agriculture that aren’t always obvious from the start.
“They’re not really growing much,” said Andrew Gertz, 38, a Dearborn resident of 20 years who lives in the neighborhood with his wife and three kids and has been a leading voice on social media calling for change at the site. “It doesn’t look like they’re doing anything.”[...]
The five-year lease with the city, through McIlrath’s nonprofit the Going Green Foundation, is up for renewal in April. McIlrath said that in 2010, it was easier to find support for the project aimed at drawing people together, providing education and supporting healthy eating. Five raised plant beds were built.
But now, two large slag heaps at the site have been unmoved for three years. Eventually, they’re intended to be part of a paving project. Between two of the plant beds, there’s a brick path. Another path has been started, and two other areas remain grass.
Councilman Dave Bazzy said at a discussion with McIlrath this summer that it has been a “very unkempt” area, looking more like a “storage area” than a farm, at times. He’s been out to the site regularly, and city staff make daily visits.