After years of plotting and hard labor, Deep Ellum Urban Gardens, a community garden on the edge of Deep Ellum, has finally arrived. On June 1, a ceremony saluted the dozens of players who made it happen.
The event had pomp and circumstance, with city officials and speeches, even as many in the audience had themselves contributed in big and small ways. But the ceremony was essential – a pause to reflect on the wondrous, complex things the gardens symbolize: a mighty achievement on their own; a valuable contribution to the neighborhood; and the thrill of grass-roots activity, of individuals working together to create something good.
The gardens also embody what is revered about the neighborhood, said Sean Fitzgerald, president of Deep Ellum Community Association, the umbrella organization over Deep Ellum Urban Gardens (DUG). "This neighborhood is unlike any other, and that's why we all love it and want to keep that," Fitzgerald said.
Project leader Kelly Clemons spoke of the garden's goal to provide an avenue for a sustainable lifestyle in an urban environment with limited green space. She thanked a long list of volunteers: social media whiz Paula Ramirez; architect Steve McGann; construction guru Dave Kasper; neighborhood organizer (and former District 14 candidate) Jim Rogers; security consultant Andrew McClellen; muralist Dan Colcer; Michael Hellman from Dallas parks department; Brandon Castillo of Deep Ellum Outdoor Market; and her husband Justin, among others.
"We love that the Gardens bring Deep Ellum and the Central Business District together," said Kourtny Garrett from Downtown Dallas.
The gardens also saw a unique collaboration between government officials, as city staffers worked with state representatives to help secure the odd piece of property on which DUG resides. It sits under a highway overpass, at the corner of Good Latimer and Canton Street, a patch of land that used to be just grass and now grows food.
That patch of land serves as a bridge between Deep Ellum and the city's Central Business District, said Kourtny Garrett from Downtown Dallas Inc. "We love that it brings the two areas together," she said.
For such a DIY project, the gardens were impeccable: the raised beds enclosed in rough-hewn wood, with "dedication" slats running across the top of each bed. Planting began in March. There were already glossy eggplants, leafy chard, statuesque artichokes and tomatoes galore. All of the plots are spoken for, but there's a waiting list to get one.