Tucson, AZ: Community builds autonomous garden in path of proposed roadway

April 7, 2008 Infoshop News

On Sunday morning the intersection of North 9th Avenue and 6th Street was witness to the unusual sight of approximately 30 volunteer workers digging holes, planting plants, and installing park benches on some vacant ground just north of downtown.

Consisting of a variety of concerned people, including neighborhood residents, staff of nearby businesses and non-profits, and visiting youth, the group spent most of the day building what a new sign announces to be the "Ramona-Magon Memorial Garden and Autonomous Community Park." Created without city involvement, the new garden is meant, according to one participant, to be a protest and obstacle to the city's proposed, and highly controversial, Downtown Links project.

Downtown Links is the latest plan to connect the Barraza-Aviation Parkway to Interstate 10, a highly contested and ever-changing scheme that has been in progress for decades. The project would include a 4-lane, high-traffic road, and the newest alignment for the road would call for it cutting right through the vacant land where the new garden is now installed. Neighborhood stakeholders are upset because this road would evict several local organizations and businesses, including BICAS (the nonprofit bicycle education organization), in addition to cutting off and isolating the Dunbar-Spring neighborhood from downtown.

Discussion and argument continue between planners, officials, and stakeholders. One Dunbar-Spring resident stated after a March 11 meeting on the issue "The way this process is happening is totally disrespectful of downtown residents and this might mean we need to make more noise.... The City Council is making the decision. They need to hear from us... how many neighborhoods, businesses, and individuals are against the new alignment and the process that created it.

Meanwhile, the volunteer gardeners plan to return to the site regularly to add to and maintain the plants, and they strongly encourage community use of and involvement in the garden.

More information about Downtown Links can be found on the city of Tucson's Downtown Links website, http://downtownlinks.info

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