neighborhood news: Vegetable garden at Dicken Elementary School vandalized on multiple occasions
Lizzy Alfs | Contributor
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."