Organization brings new energy to community gardens throughout the city
PHILADELPHIA (May 21) – The newly revitalized Neighborhood Gardens Trust (NGT) brought exciting messages of support and growth to Philadelphia’s community gardeners today, including plans for the first citywide celebration of community gardens in June.
At a press conference and celebration in the Summer Winter Garden in the Powelton Village section, NGT announced its new name, board and logo; the addition of the Pulaski Street and St. Bernard gardens to its portfolio; a new website (ngtrust.org); a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; and important partnerships with the City of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society that support its mission as the city’s largest land trust.
“This is a wonderful time to be part of the city’s network of community gardens,” said Margaret McCarvill, NGT Board President. “With a focused mission, experienced board, and a solid business plan, NGT is poised to better protect the thriving, established gardens we own as well as acquire many more green spaces throughout the city. Community gardens are integral parts of their neighborhoods and the lives of their gardeners and residents.”
NGT’s predecessor, the Neighborhood Gardens Association, was established in 1986 and grew to acquire 30 properties throughout Philadelphia. After a downturn in the 2008- 2011 time period, it sought the assistance of PHS, which originally helped create NGA and viewed its mission as complementary. The renamed Neighborhood Gardens Trust became an affiliate of PHS in 2012. Though NGT remains an independent non-profit organization, PHS helps manage the land trust’s day-to-day operations.
“Preservation of our community gardens is a top priority for us,” explained PHS President Drew Becher. “The city is very fortunate to have NGT and its new leadership in place. We are now looking ahead to a bright future for the gardens and the acquisition of new green spaces on the Philadelphia landscape.”
The other speakers at today’s event, whose agencies are providing integral support for NGT, were Joan Blaustein, Director of Urban Forestry and Ecosystem Management, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation; Laura Taylor, Contract Administrator of the Philadelphia Office of Housing and Community Development; and Brian Abernathy, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority.
The goal of NGT is to increase the number of gardens and open spaces from the 34 it owns or leases to more than 100 by the end of 2016. The recent passage of legislation creating the Philadelphia Land Bank, a mechanism for turning vacant land into productive use, will help NGT reach this goal, reflecting the rising trend of households growing their own food and the increase in community gardening. “The Land Bank will be a great tool to enable a smoother transfer of properties for gardeners,” McCarvill said.
The parcels of land under NGT’s umbrella range from single house lots to 3.7-acre spaces. The gardens include tranquil spots filled with flowers and trees to bountiful vegetable gardens that contribute to the PHS City Harvest program, which raises fresh, healthy food for families in need. Among the NGT gardens are long-established, stunning landscapes such as Aspen Farms in West Philadelphia and the urban oasis filled with found art called Summer Winter Garden, as well as recently built sites like the Mantua Urban Peace Garden, a long-vacant space transformed last fall into dozens of raised beds tended by more than 40 neighbors.
To celebrate these and other gardens throughout Philadelphia, NGT plans the city’s first “Community Gardens Day” on Saturday, June 21, when community gardens in each neighborhood will open their gates for a variety of events reflecting the unique identities of the participating green spaces.
More information about Community Gardens Day and other services provided by NGT will be available at ngtrust.org.
Media contact: Alan Jaffe, PHS, 215.988.8833, (m) 267.968.0859, firstname.lastname@example.org
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