“Hi, I’m Kelley Russell.” A tall, blonde woman reaches her hand out to Elizabeth Dry, the founder of Promise of Peace Garden, and states with assurance, “You’re the garden lady.”
Dry is standing inside her crammed, soon-to-be office inside White Rock United Methodist Church, scoping out the room that will make the garden’s move to WRUMC official. Russell continues, “I don’t know what’s wrong with this neighborhood.”
For more than a month now, Dry, a Sanger Elementary School teacher, has been battling neighbors whose houses border WRUMC’s south parking lot, where she’d first hoped to relocate POP garden. (On the southeast corner of Old Gate Lane and Santa Clara Drive) The hope is that now the neighborhood fight over the garden will come to an end with a quiet resolution. Last night at 7 p.m., the leaders of the church voted and approved POP Garden’s move to the north parking lot, which faces San Saba Drive.
From the beginning, associate pastor Mitchell Boone, who moved to Dallas last July from Denver, helped Promise of Peace Garden secure the south parking lot space with the hope that a community garden would be a benefit to both the neighborhood and the church. After all, Dry’s whole mission for the garden is to instill an appreciation for nature in children and adults. It was supposed to be a win-win situation: Dry could save money on rent (her current space at 7446 East Grand has a higher rent than “basically free,” which is what the church is offering); and the church gets a garden that has kids’ camps, farm-to-table dinners, and other beneficial programming activities.
But then the neighbors’ protests started.
I won’t go into detail because the Advocate has done a lot of coverage on the controversy already with its Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. But here’s the skinnier version: Basically, some neighbors along Santa Clara and Old Gate were fiercely opposed to the idea of having a garden nearby because it would (1) disturb the peace with fundraisers and live music (2) create traffic congestion and (3) they were angry that Dry did not communicate her plans for the garden to them.
“No one contacted us to ask how can we make this work… you got to have communication and share that with the community. I still don’t know exactly what she wants to do. If I knew what her plan was I’d be more apt to be on board,” says Santa Clara homeowner Roxanne King.
Dry, on the other hand, says she met William Logg III, the owner of the house that bordered the potential new location, while she was out surveying WRUMC’s south parking lot. “I’m real weary of knocking on people’s doors so I try to catch them outside. So that’s what I did with them. I didn’t even get through the next day without another neighbor screaming at me through the phone,” says Dry.
“…That’s what I told Mitchell… I said, ‘You can have a community meeting but I will not be there. Because it’s just going to be an opportunity for them to scream and yell. If they want to sit and talk, that’s one thing, but to be hateful and accusatory…”
Dry and her supporters had a “Love In” at the church last Saturday. All the “love” signs were made by Dry herself, and most of them read like posters you’d probably find hanging inside her classroom at Sanger with positive messages like “Let the Sunshine In!” Meanwhile, across Old Gate Lane, William Logg’s white house had signs of its own. Logg made about 20 handmade markers that said “NO GARDEN” and stuck them all around his lawn. A few of his neighbors on Santa Clara also had a sign or two facing WRUMC.
Now that POP Garden is moving to the north parking lot, King says those signs will go down. “Hallelujah!”
She also says that she’s wanted the garden to move to the north parking lot all along. Dry thinks it’s a better area for the garden, too. “Actually the neighbors from over here [San Saba] had written a petition to get us over here. That was a factor, because they want us here so much. There’s five of them who have children, so the support is over here.”
Boone, one of Dry’s biggest supporters, agrees. “From the church’s standpoint we want to foster an environment where people felt safe and welcomed, and I’m not sure we would’ve gotten that all the time from the other location.”
“It’s more scenic, it’s more peaceful, it has more amenities. We can go to the restroom and our office. The church is also offering semi-usage of the industrial kitchen. Imagine a white tablecloth picnic tables across the parking lot and the food coming out that door to feed a farm-to-table dinner, to feed the community,” says Dry. She points to green grapes that are growing from a vine next to the lot, and says it’s a sign that they were meant to be at this location, instead of the other one. It’s clearly a better option. There’s already a play area for small kids that the Garden could transform into an outdoor learning space, and it’s far enough away from the opposing neighbors.
“Back here just feels better,” says Boone.