St. George city elections are coming up on Nov. 7. One issue at hand during an election year is that the city would like to pave over the Tonaquint community garden to provide additional parking for the Thunder Junction All-Abilities Park.
I view the city council much like consultants to the people. You do work for the people, but it is more of a side-by-side interaction while working for the same cause. However, in regards to the Tonaquint community garden, I was told that, “No one was anxious to move the garden, but it wasn’t done without input. Much discussion and feedback occurred by email, phone, and in person.” This statement perplexed me because the members of the community garden were blind-sided by this decision on June 2 this year. No one had any knowledge of these discussions referenced. Imagine the State of Utah deciding to plow down the city office with no collaboration of the city council or staff … I imagine that would be unheard of.
I called the city to see what could be done and was told we could start a petition. I pursued this angle, and we received about 650 signatures, or 7 percent of the total winning vote count of the last municipal election against this city action of people who live in St George. When I attempted to offer my hard collaborative work to the city, she and others were told, “Petitions don’t matter.” Yet another perplexing and unappreciative statement.
So what are the pros of paving over the community garden? Pros for paving over the community garden: More parking places for the park, and appease the constituency who are asking for more parking.
Allow me to briefly refute each. There are 17 handicapped, 82 paved, and 60 gravel parking spots to bring a total of 159 spaces. A community garden member has kept a log since she learned of the city’s decision. With 35 entries from June to August the data indicates an average of 13 parking spaces in use. A mode of 12 parking spaces in use. A max of 33 parking spaces in use. You could triple the max and still have enough paved parking.
The second pro: To appease your constituency, have you kept track of how many people have requested parking through phone, email, and in person? If so, are they aware you plan to pave over the community garden and that park attendance decreases over time?
Some people may pray for a little extra cash, but they don’t want grandma to die so they can collect on their inheritance. I don’t believe most people would want parking like this.
Let’s review the pros of the community garden. It is an adult park where we learn and grow. It encourages self-reliance and betterment. Over 1,400 lbs. of produce is donated to the local food kitchen each year, which is more than a parking lot can produce! This amount increases year after year as the soil improves. Encourages healthier eating. We benefit from one another’s gardens and build friendships. The city will save money on the relocation and proposed parking lot by leaving it.
I could go on with this and other points, but in conclusion, I do not see why the city council has acted this way and how they justify this action. In this voting year, I hope we can consider voting for members who will serve the people rather than dictate to them.
—Teisha Field, St. George City resident
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