A garden emerges from Rockland Street’s weekend-cleanup effort

During Saturday’s fifth annual Philly Spring Cleanup effort, residents of the unit block of W. Rockland St. in Germantown built a new community garden.

The block has plans for two organic gardens. They would reclaim trash-filled vacant lots which some neighbors said left them feeling hopeless and fearful through the years.

“When I see the kids playing in this area, I worry about their safety,” said Charles Pullett as he helped pull trash from the lot. “Today makes me very excited to live here.”

Pullett wasn’t alone.

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“This is a step in the right direction,” said longtime resident Gladys Alston. “This is a great idea.”

Teamwork required

To get the effort moving, flyers were distributed and monthly meetings were held.

On Saturday, neighbors, children and volunteers got to work removing trash and building up the soon-to-be garden.

“In order to keep this area up, it has to be collaborative effort,” said Derik Moore. “This gives a sense that people are contributing to the community.”

All materials used were donated by Home Depot. Explained associate department supervisor Jessica Ortiz, “They reached out to us and it was definitely something we wanted to be a part of.”

Change of plans

Organizers initially planned to start a garden at the corner of Greene and Rockland streets, land on which two abandoned homes were demolished after Mayor Michael Nutter stopped by to check out the work being done on the block.

After months of planning, however, those plans was placed on hold.

“We couldn’t start the garden there because of soil and landscaping concerns,” block captain Ainé Doley said. “So, we moved up the street to another vacant lot to still make an impact.”

Doley’s sister Emaleigh said she hopes they can get support from “contractors and landscapers to help plan the Greene and Rockland garden.”

Between both lots, there will be a total of 20 to 35 raised garden beds. Half will be sold to residents via memberships while the rest will be used as outdoor classrooms for students at The DePaul Catholic School, which is located right around the corner.

“We’ve seen our community grow over the last few years,” Ainé Doley said. “Neighbors are getting excited to see positive changes.”

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