Pave the Garden 

Discord sprouts as University of Memphis eyes garden for parking lot.

Somewhere Joni Mitchell is shaking her head.

University of Memphis (U of M) leaders are considering a move that would pave a community garden and, yes, put up a parking lot.

The Tiger Initiative for Gardens in Urban Settings (TIGUrS Garden), was established on the east side of the school's campus in 2009. It provides education to school groups and free, organic produce to students, staff, and community members. But it may be paved to make way for 120 new parking spaces as the university readies construction for a new recreation center.

Word of the move emerged in a story from U of M's student newspaper, The Daily Helmsman, last week. Since then, the proposal has sparked anger, confusion, and a petition against the move at change.org, which now has more than 1,300 signatures.

"A parking lot is a short-term solution to a long-term problem: the need for a walkable, sustainable university neighborhood," reads a petition comment from John-Michael Tubbs. "The garden is a long-term solution to a long-term problem: the need for a sustainable future."

click to enlarge The TIGUrS garden at the U of M - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted Photo
  • The TIGUrS garden at the U of M

But U of M president David Rudd said the school was only exploring options at this point, and that it was "dramatically premature" to ask about the garden's relocation. Rudd said it was "simply wrong" that any decision had been made.

"We're exploring several options including an expansion of spaces where Richardson Towers were located, along with the availability of remote parking at our Park Avenue campus and a designated bus line to encourage use," Rudd said. "I'll be reviewing options, responding to concerns, and exploring a timeline in the next several months after we've been able to gather information."

Karyl Buddington, the school's director of animal services, started the urban garden project. She said members of the administration contacted her about the relocation two weeks ago. The university, Buddington said, wanted to move the garden to a space between Zach Curlin Parking Garage and Rawl's Hall. But it would be a quarter of the size of the current garden, she said.

"I think it's a temporary fix," Buddington said. "The university needs the green spaces that are left. If you pave over the garden there now, you don't get that back."

In an email sent last Friday to faculty, students, and staff, Rudd said the university's goal was to maintain current parking numbers during construction of the recreation center, and that the administration had not developed specific options or established a definitive timeline.

"I recently requested that our Student Government Association discuss and respond to available options, along with sharing any concerns," Rudd said in the email. "We hope to share with you a detailed parking plan before you depart for the Thanksgiving holiday. The plan will provide details on total number of spaces available pre/post ground breaking, along with specific recommendations to minimize disruption during construction."

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