It’s hard not to sympathize with the group of senior citizens who are about to lose their beloved community garden on the grounds of Tacoma Community College.
The gardeners, predominantly immigrants from Russia and Ukraine, come from a culture that values being close to the soil and growing their own produce. They live in nearby apartments and have no land to till, so the garden that began at TCC almost a half century ago is an oasis for them. It feeds their souls, supplements their diets and helps keep them active.
They were heartbroken when they were told that TCC was evicting them because the campus is expanding in its direction and the administration had concerns about liability and a possible conflict with state law.
TCC is trying not to seem like a bad guy, but it is, after all, the 800-pound gorilla here. The one-acre garden has been around longer than some of TCC’s buildings, and it’s not as if it were hidden from view.
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News Tribune columnist Matt Driscoll discovered that the garden was started in a semi-official way by a now-retired dean of instruction, Paul Jacobson. He saw a lot of empty land and thought a garden would be a nice way to reach out to the community.
The community embraced that outreach. So it seems a little shabby now to essentially say, “Never mind,” 50 years later.
As for liability, no one in Olympia seems to be breathing down TCC administrators’ throats about a bunch of elderly gardeners. So there appears to be no great rush to resolve this issue.
We’re not convinced that TCC – which has a huge campus – can’t find a single acre for these gardeners and come up with a creative way to allow them to continue gardening, if not at the current location then at another. These are the college’s neighbors, after all.
To their credit, TCC officials – including new president Sheila Ruhland – seem motivated to find a solution to this sticky wicket. They’ve been meeting with the Pierce Conservation District and the City of Tacoma to locate a permanent home for the garden and will host a public meeting at 6 p.m. Oct. 29 in the Student Center (Building 11).
They are not ruling out finding another site at TCC, but believe that could be more complicated than relocating it off campus.
Those are welcome steps. Let’s hope the problem can be resolved in time for spring planting.