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actions & protests | environment | imperialism & war may day

Port of Olympia dismantles Mayday Community Garden

Olympia's Mayday Garden dismantled in ongoing struggle with port officials.
I was walking down State Street on my way to school this morning, when I saw Port of Olympia employees landscaping in the empty lot, which once contained the May Day Community Garden. I asked one of them why the garden had disappeared. He smiled and said it was the orders of the Port, he suggested I call them to complain. He recalled when there was a big garden in that location a few years earlier, according to him it was a place where "all sorts of people, of every age would come and garden."

The Mayday garden was planted this year as part of Olympia's annual May Day celebration. I have been watching it grow over the last few weeks, it has been kept up by volunteers who have been bringing it water, making sure it stays clean and just enjoying it. On the street across form the now defunct garden, was parked a semi carrying a load of tree's; killed and ready for export. Some Olympians have called for a "peace-port" to oppose Olympia's support for U.S. Imperialism. That would be a good thing. However, the port is engaged in a war at home as well as abroad. One small garden may not seem like a big deal, and it's not. But it doesn't stop there. I live close to downtown and see log's driven past my house every week.

The old garden from years ago had flowers, which had survived over time. They return on the mounds of dirt in the spring, today the port took a weed-whacker to them too. I'm sure the flowers will be back. And so will we.
let's build another garden 19.May.2005 03:08


and defend it.

our garden 20.May.2005 13:23


gardens are great i hope that people who have own their own backyards or have landlords that let them alter the property do grow gardens. growing food and flowers are good for your health, environment and community. but there's a problem with this, not everyone has that kind of access to garden space. and few people who have legal property rights want to give space to that kind of project, not to discount the awesome gardens that do exist on peoples property in oly.

a lot of thought went into the garden loation. The choice of port property highlights the divide between the community and the Port particularly over militarization of this "public" property. the lot has been slated for different development projects that haven't been in support of the neighborhood.(until recently the business group the Olympia Downtown Association has played the uncontested equivalent to a neighborhood association so the people living there are doubly underserved in policy making) one of these projects was to build a conference center for corporate folks, and was a sweetheart deal for the company that would be working with the project. and there had been a garden there a few years ago(Bread & Roses/ G.R.u B. run) so there's some community history with a a garden there.

its a very inspiring thing to see people live out a better life in the commons by building things like gardens. those apple trees that were planted could have a been a free community resource much better for the people that live here than a corp. conference center or other gentrification plans. and certainly better than the empty lots it's been returned to.

sow seeds of resitance

Its going to take persistance... 21.May.2005 23:27

Nova nova@riseup.net

I was so proud to help make this happen on Mayday... we pulled that little garden together out of some old crates, rusty nails, donated dirt and serious love of vegetables and freedom. Since moving to Olympia I have been continually disgusted by the attitude of the Port toward the citizens of this city, and the destruction of our community garden just adds fuel to the fire! We can't let this action go by the wayside... please join me in confronting the Port and the City. Downtown Olympia is the perfect place for a beautiful free garden- obviously people want one, otherwise they wouldn't plant a garden every year. Lets make this happen for real- its going to take a united front and the vocal support of the whole community, but I know we can do it together.

something needs to be done besides just phone calls 23.May.2005 21:12


after twenty phone calls, two days of hammering work, and dozens of dirty fingernails, this garden was put together with great care. i'm happy to have been a part of this simple random act of freedom.
most of what i mean to say has already been said...but we have to figure out what we're going to do about it.

let's pursue this garden in every way possible. let the media know the town cares...survey the surrounding residents and those without homes to let the city know just how many people want and will care for this garden...post large signs to let oly residents know what happened (it's quite a traffic zone!)...flood the port with calls...coordinate with organizations that have instituted gardents before. i know of many people interested in making this an issue.

...discarded street-side rotting plywood and its rusty nails transformed into garden boxes...
...yards of dirt, chock full of millenium-old mineral sediment, microorganisms, mychorrizae, earth worms, wrigglers and months-old biodegraded veggie scraps, moved shovelful by shovelful onto abandoned gravel...
...baby apple trees, tiny brassicas, onions, fennel, spinach, mint and many flowers...
...surrounded by laughing bikers, mayday protestors, musicians and dancers, feasters and dumpster-cooked food, overlooked by port of olympia employees and cops on motorbikes...
our garden began free.

many people have committed the completely voluntary act of taking care of the olympia free people's community garden since then - for three weeks, it was watered, plants were added, weeds were painstakingly reminded to grow in other places. hundreds of people must cross this gravel battle-zone each day commuting, and to see things growing would lighten their spirits in such a concrete-dominated part of the city.

the port of olympia seems to have decided that such a free garden cannot exist. after all, a building might be constructed there in a matter of years...good reasoning, isn't it?
every single plant from that garden is dead now. besides a sole apple tree i found, overturned by a lawn mower. it still had some life in it, and it needs care! whoever can take in this survivor should do so.

let's figure out what to do...this action should not stand unnoticed!

PoO Response 30.May.2005 09:58

Den Mark, Vancouver

I contacted Port of Olympia commissioners about the garden & today rec'd this response from one obviously interested commissioner. I offer to you, fyi.

Den Mark

The response:

"I made an inquiry to Port of Olympia staff on this matter. Below is the response. Apparently, some of the plants were saved.

1) Two or three years ago, the Port entered into a simple land lease on our State Street property with a community group that wanted to develop a community garden.

2) The community group entered into a lease, knowing that it was a short-term lease, and that the Port had other long-term plans for the property.

3) The lease was terminated a short time later, and the community group re-located the garden to another site within the community. As Bob stated, it was an amicable parting.

4) On May 1st of this year, an unknown party constructed a garden on the Port's State Street property, without permission from the Port. Clarita was made aware of the garden.

5) Staff intermittently observed the garden for approx. 2 weeks to see if we could identify the party that was the owner of the garden.

6) Clarita drove by the property last week and observed a couple that approached the garden. She stopped and asked if they were associated with the garden activity or knew anyone who was associated with the garden. They responded "no" and Clarita observed them to be very evasive and avoiding eye contact.

7) Clarita informed them that the garden was on Port property, and that the activity could continue only under a lease with the Port. The couple moved on.

8) Staff continued to visit the site and did not observe anyone else approach the garden. Clarita requested that Jack Merrigan remove the garden, but retain the plants, in case the owners came forward.
That is what I know at this point in time."