(photo caption: Victoria Martins, Gina Briguglio, City Councilor Melissa Cox and Lara Lepionka cut the ribbon of the second Burnham’s Field Community Garden. Photo by Anna Swanson).
I don’t know the first thing about planting a garden but I know there’s a park in the center of Gloucester where people used to be afraid to send their kids and a few years ago some neighbors started a community garden in the park and now families play on the playground and kids learn to ride their bikes and there are kids playing and running in the park all the time soccer and basketball and baseball and football.
Burnham’s Field — 7 acres of grass, ballfields and playground across Pleasant Street from St. Ann’s Church — was once a landfill. True story. They took the fill from building projects in East Gloucester and other parts of the city and dumped it in Burnham’s. It was more marsh than field in those days.
Eight or nine years ago, some neighbors met with the City because they were tired of what Burnham’s Field had become. Tired of the drug use and graffiti and drinking and other bad stuff. Tired of being afraid to send their kids to play there or to walk there after dark. So they decided to make the field safe for families and kids again. They decided to take Burnham’s back.
It all started with a community garden.
There’s this idea that when lots of people are in a park doing positive things, there’ll be fewer people doing bad things. That was the idea behind the Burnham’s Field Community Garden, which opened in 2011 (see the GMG story here). After the garden opened, all of a sudden there were people working in the 20 new garden plots and keeping an eye on the field at all hours of the day.
Since then, neighbors and the City have continued to renovate Burnham’s Field. Two new playgrounds. Softball backstops and bleachers. Basketball backboards. A lighted paved walkway around the field. Trees and benches. Burnham’s Field is now full of kids and families playing at all hours. Families are no longer afraid to go there. It’s become a huge gathering place for families in central Gloucester.
So it was a big deal this weekend when the Backyard Growers and Burnham’s Field Community Gardeners held a ribbon-cutting celebration to open a second garden of 16 plots in Burnham’s Field. That’s 16 new families who’ll have their own plot to grow vegetables and herbs and flowers. And 16 new families who’ll be part of the good things happening in Burnham’s Field.
I don’t know the first thing about gardening but I know the number of people who care about a once tired old park in the heart of Gloucester is growing just as surely as the tomato plants and strawberry vines. And that’s a good thing.