By John Ramos

BERKELEY (KPIX) — Urban green spaces have become a vital lifeline where neighborhood gardeners can gather with each other and cultivate the earth. Now, a group of Berkeley neighbors are concerned that their long-time community garden may close if the property owner decides to sell the land for development. Now they’re mounting a campaign to try to save the garden for future generations.

From the street it may look like an overgrown vacant lot, and that’s exactly what it was 17 years ago when a group of activists were looking for a place to create a community garden. Nora Shourd was one of them.

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“We contacted the property owners and asked them, can we start a garden on your property? And we hit pay dirt with this owner, he was fine with it, and those guys were fine too,” she said.

So, for all that time, the two vacant lots have served as the Ashby Community Garden, a place for those who dwell on concrete sidewalks to get back to the earth, get their hands a little dirty, and provide a place of respite for people who may have no other connection to nature. Among the apple trees and pepper plants, there are flowers that serve as a welcoming home for the birds and the bees.

“The pollinators are responsible for our food,” said garden coordinator Bonnie Borucki, “and having corridors for those pollinators is really important.”

The oak they planted as a sapling now towers over the garden, giving the impression it would be here forever. But, maybe not. The owner of the second lot recently gave notice that the property was for sale and half of the garden was cleared out. The asking price is $500,000 and the gardeners are concerned that if they get it, the other lot may go up for sale as well.

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“We’re afraid we’re going to lose it all,” said Shourd. “And that’s like, it’s really sadness. I can’t even go there most of the time. I’m, like, we’re not going to do that. We’re going to save this garden.”

So they’re trying to raise a different kind of cabbage: money. They don’t think they can collect enough to buy the property outright, but they hope to get enough seed money to mount a campaign to get support from a big donor, a land trust, the city—anyone who can help keep the property as a community resource, and keep the garden growing.

“If you look around, this neighborhood needs this garden,” said Shourd, “they need it badly.”

“And I think there’s a deeper realization that there’s a need for places like this,” added Borucki. “So, I’m optimistic in that sense—that there’s a way.”

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The gardeners have started a GoFundMe effort to raise donations.