I was walking down Front Street recently when I fell down, bumped my head, and woke up on the sidewalk delirious from the impact. Obviously concussed and delusional, I stumbled past the library to the adjacent lot where a Community Garden was proposed, but was later shot down by Council and Administration. I sat on the bench overlooking the lot and the river, dizzy and unable to walk further. Stars were swirling around my head. Clearly symptomatic from my fall, trauma-induced irrational visions danced before my eyes. I saw:
(you should be hearing that dreamy music heard in television shows when the actor goes into a dream sequence, and the picture should be slightly blurry at the edges)
A local Boy Scouts troop, hand tools at their sides, are ready to get dirty and help construct the garden. Visions of shiny new merit badges occupy their minds. An eager Eagle Scout is the first to slam his shovel into the ground
A group of gardeners from scattered parts of the borough plant seeds and seedlings in neat, organized rows. Although from different backgrounds and neighborhoods, they share in common a sense of community and prominent green thumbs. Conversations start, ideas are shared, and new friends are made.
Once bare ground with small sprouts, the landscape now resembles a bounty of mature kale, carrots, and strawberries. A mother and her two children arrive at the garden; the oldest child asks many questions, the younger child listens closely to the questions and answers. Two elderly friends get together to pick weeds, water crops, and catch up on the week’s events. They eye the young family and smile knowingly.
With the garden in a prominent, visible, and central urban location, passerby inquisitively take a short detour from the sidewalk to gander. Some are locals, previously unaware of the garden, but now curious and ready to get dirty. Others are from out of town. They will later bring these ideas back to their localities and tell friends of the great things going on in Red Bank.
In the library, there’s a fruit canning demonstration in the meeting room, tomorrow a cooking class. Gardening manuals and fresh food cookbooks circulate regularly and rarely get a chance to rest their overworked spines on the shelves. In the Children’s Section, within view of the garden, the kiddies sit in a circle and learn the benefits of fresh, local food. Later at home, they pester their parents into joining the community garden and/or starting a backyard garden.
Time passes, the sun hangs lower in the sky.
Harvest. Baskets and bags in hand, locals pick the crops and shake off excess dirt. Some of the bounty is destined for a salad bowl on Leighton Avenue. On Spring Street, a crock pot awaits the contents of vegetarian chili. On Irving Place, two kids are ready to make their first zucchini bread with Dad. Still more of the bounty will be transformed into vital sustenance at Lunch Break on Drs. James Parker Boulevard.
(end dreamy music, the picture sharpens)
Then I come back to reality, shake off the cobwebs, and realize that, hey, we have an underutilized riverfront lot. Great. It’s apparently not for Red Bankers, but at least the Canada Geese get to enjoy it. Then I realize we have a compromise garden lot proposed for the edge of town in a secluded location. Better than nothing, but unnecessarily a tiny fraction of what a Community Garden could be.
Granted, although I have heard zero citizen opposition to date, this vision is admittedly representative of just a subset of the Red Bank population. However, it carries tremendous support. The Council on the other hand, as stated by Administration, unanimously does not share the Front Street site conceptualization. But, the Council’s explanation anticlimactically ends there. What exactly is the Council’s vision for the site? Whose interests are being represented? I have asked, others have asked, to no avail. If there is a long-range plan for that lot, that’s the beauty of a garden - it’s not permanent. By the time any action is taken, the community garden concept will be established, and the physical operation can be moved.
Well, pardon me while I run to the medicine cabinet - I need some Advil - have this headache I just can’t explain.