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Posted on Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 10:50 a.m.

Vegetable garden at Dicken Elementary School vandalized on multiple occasions

By Lizzy Alfs


The Dicken vegetable garden was started this year and offers plots for teachers, Dicken families, and members of the community to plant and maintain. As a part of Project Grow, half of the food must be donated.

Lizzy Alfs | Contributor

Uprooted potato plants, torn down wire fences and signs marking students' gardening efforts were scattered across Dicken Elementary School's Project Grow vegetable garden after it was vandalized earlier this month.

The garden, which was started on the side of Dicken this year, is part of Ann Arbor's Project Grow non-profit gardening organization. Teachers at Dicken and members of the community can take over a small section of the garden to maintain, and half of the food is donated to a food bank.

According to the garden's organizer and Project Grow board member Andrew Comai, the vandalism began on the night of June 30 and has occurred on three separate occasions.

He said it began with kids riding bikes through the garden and knocking down corn. When neighbors heard a disturbance they called the police and the kids were identified and given a warning.

"We thought we fended off the rabbits and deer by putting up a fence and now there (are) kids creating more havoc," Comai said.

After Comai and others replanted some of the plants and fixed the torn-down fence, the garden was vandalized again on July 9. Comai said the damage was worse this time. All the poles of the fence were uprooted and the potato plants that one of the Dicken classes planted were damaged.

"The kids had flags next to the potatoes they planted," Comai said. "All the flags were on the ground. It's really disappointing."

When vandals returned the following night, July 10, they were caught and identified by a neighbor, who again issued a warning. Some of the vandals were the same people who had vandalized the garden on June 30.

According to Project Grow Director Cynthia Rutherford, of the six schools that have Project Grow sites in Ann Arbor, only one other has experienced vandalism to the degree of the Dicken case.

She said that while some of the sites have had minor vandalism problems, the site at Mitchell Elementary School was completely destroyed at harvest time, leaving the gardeners with nothing.

"It's so sad," Rutherford said. "Gardening is symbolic of hope and after months of putting their hearts and souls into those gardens the gardeners' hope was taken away."

Other school gardens in Ann Arbor, like the Burns Park garden, have remained safe from vandalism.

Burns Park Elementary School PTO President Lynda Norton said they have had no problems with vandalism and have not taken any measures to prevent potential damage.

"We hope that community members and students would respect the garden that the elementary school students have worked so hard to create," Norton said.

Comai said to avoid further vandalism to the Dicken garden, he is trying to get more people to periodically check it and activate the neighborhood watch.

"People say they'll keep a lookout and report things," Comai said. "So the idea is just call 911 if you see anything suspicious."

Lizzy Alfs is a senior at the University of Michigan majoring in English. She is also a news reporter for the Michigan Daily. Email her with events and news relating to Ann Arbor’s North Side.


Ann Arbor mom

Wed, Jul 21, 2010 : 12:32 p.m.

The time for warnings to the vandals has ended. Time for prosecution and punishment, which should include a healthy dose of outdoor work.

Ryan Munson

Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 10:20 p.m.

I agree with Milton Shift. In addition they should be made to rebuild the garden they destroyed.

Milton Shift

Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 9:10 p.m.

These kids should be given some community service for this - gardening an equal size plot to what they destroyed and donating half to Project Grow, half to the gardeners. Also should have to spend some time handing out food to the hungry, so they can see that their actions harmed real people.


Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 6:41 p.m.

Actually, it sounds like the vandals are known. So I think the gardener(s) should press charges. I have a Project Grow plot elsewhere. I have invested an enormous amount of time and money into it, and I am feeding my family with the food I grow there. This is not a small deal. Fencing, compost, hay/mulch, seeds, seedlings, weeding, soil prep, hours and hours of work, and the money I pay to Project Grow for use of the plot (also not unsubstantial). If it were my plot, I would press charges.

Reginald Cafferty

Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 6:17 p.m.

This is outrageous. Vandalism is a problem that affects everyone in the community. Back in the 1980's my Buick was vandalized but luckily I had a video recording of the egg throwing hoodlums that committed the infraction. This school should invest in some camcorders on a time delay.


Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 5:27 p.m.

Put cameras up. Identify the brats. Prosecute them, sue their parents.


Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 5:06 p.m.

Kids do hate vegetables, maybe it's a hate crime.


Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 3:48 p.m.

T2.o -- pleeeeaaase, can you NOT make this a political issue? Good grief. I'm as liberal as they come, and I wouldn't even have given one warning. There would have been consequences the first time. There is no place for that nonsense here.

Blue Marker

Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 3:26 p.m.

What does "Liberal" have to do with it? That's like me saying "conservative" kids who hate for no reason did this! Yeah, it doesn't make sense now does it?


Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 2:06 p.m.

My home borders the Dicken schoolyard. A few years ago I lost 1/2 of my entire garden (20x30) from kids stomping the veggies/flowers. It was very upsetting. My husband caught them coming back for a 2nd go, and they've not been back + we've padlocked and raised the height of our back gate as well. It's generally an extremely friendly, nice neighborhood but we do get the occasional urchin or group of tweens who cause problems...we had our car accosted during the wee hours last year but they just stole some change and threw papers/books around on the driveway...likely looking for an ipod or stereo items we guessed.


Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 12:09 p.m.

While i think there should be consequences for not respecting others property, is calling 911 really the way to go? Is it that much of an emergency?


Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 11:15 a.m.

I agree that after the first warning, there should be actual punishment. These kids obviously aren't taking it seriously.


Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 10:50 a.m.

Last I noticed, vandalizing property is a how about some community service or ticket the parents?


Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 10:42 a.m.

What's with all the warnings??? How bout some serious consequences for these kids?

Tammy Mayrend

Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 10:36 a.m.

It is a sad, sad day when children need to destroy the efforts of others - of course I am assuming the vandals were children. What this really means is these children or teens are bored and being unsupervised, which is even sadder. They should be punished by being made to work at a food bank. I'm not sure that would make a difference though... It's so very sad.