The Last Stand; Ballard P-Patch under threat
By Peggy Sturdivant
The Ballard P-Patch is Ballard’s Eden. It is a hidden gem just one block northwest of NW 85th & 24th NW. With its weekly bounty of produce delivered to the Ballard Food Bank, its free worm compost, its gnome mural by Henry the Ballard P-Patch is nonetheless stealth. It’s an official City of Seattle emergency preparedness hub and a garden laboriously reconfigured to be ADA accessible. The P-Patch is also endangered. The possibility of its loss to development feels like the last stand for me.
The garden just north and below Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church’s parking lot has been growing there for over 40 years. It’s a green space in an area lacking public open space, it’s beloved, and it’s endangered in part because Our Redeemer’s has its own dangers. The church desperately needs seismic and ADA retrofits, as well as additional work to bring it up to code. Pastor Kathy Hawk needs to be able to offer a safe place of worship to some 200 people at a time.
The church does not want to sell the land where a garden (that was originally its brainchild) has one of the oldest in the P-Patch program. The church needs enough money to fund the upgrades necessary. They have even downscaled renovations to bare minimum in order to cut costs yet still meet code and add community benefit. In hopes of what Pastor Hawk pronounces a “win-win” for the church and Ballard P-Patch they have given the P-Patch time to raise the $1.8 million necessary. Our Redeemer’s has not talked to any developers, but know that per zoning the land that provided 2000 pounds of fresh produce to the Ballard Food Bank this year would give a developer the opportunity to build four single-family homes.
“Save the Ballard P-Patch” read yard signs with a website for information and donations. A group of gardeners, friends and neighbors have organized mightily since learning the futures of both garden and church were in the balance. Inspired by a gnome mural painted by Henry the supporters have been attending Parks Department meetings, candidate nights, organizing fundraisers…all the while sporting gnome hats. They have invited candidates and elected officials from City, County and State to visit the garden and see what could be lost.
Joyce Moty of GROW Northwest, which is the fiscal sponsor for P-Patches and is therefore allowed to do advocacy for the City of Seattle program says of Ballard’s P-Patch, “It’s a gem. It’s already there. We don’t have to build something new, we’ve just got to save it.” Contributions are tax-deductible, and would be ideal for corporate matching. Specifics are available at saveballardppatch.org.
The garden hosts educational tours and has a patio and grill open to the community. For 18 years it has hosted “Art in the Garden” featuring local artists and musicians. It always seems to be the most beautiful day of summer on that August day. Entering from the south this year the first plot was entirely filled with dahlias in bloom, just beyond were tomato plants so laden with fruit as to appear artificial.
The Ballard P-Patch is home to 90 families of gardeners, some of them second generation. “Save the P-Patch” organizers are learning social media, lobbying and how to write press releases. They are doing a community rally at Bergen Place on September 22nd at 11 a.m. and will be part of Seattle’s Park(ing) Day on September 26th (at 14th & NW 65th for increased visibility). I’ve proposed that Ballard Writers Collective will write to the theme of “growing” for its 10th Annual “Writer Next Door” Event on November 1, 2019, with all proceeds from gift basket raffle going to the cause of saving the Ballard P-Patch.
Every gardener and nearby neighbor will blame themselves if they don’t feel they have done everything humanly (and perhaps gnomely) possible to raise at least the $1.8 million. That’s why they are carpooling to meetings at the Parks Department after their weekly food bank drop-off. It’s why they are inviting every candidate to visit. Why they lobbied for the King County Levy in hopes of a grant possibility if it passed (it did). Why they are donating goods, all their waking hours, forgoing sleep even, to raise the money.
I blame myself already for not doing enough to help. I want this for Ballard. I want this for Seattle. I want the City of Seattle to stop touting the P-Patch Program while treating them like some other department’s problem, not one of Seattle’s greatest assets. Once upon a time Ballard even built its own hospital by knocking on one door at a time. Ballard P-Patch has been a giving garden to thousands in its 43 years. Our Redeemer’s has been the most generous of “landlords” for 43 years, charging $1/year. Now they need help for their property and that of the garden. How to get to win-win? It’s time for all of us to stand up, knock on every door if need be and Save Ballard P-Patch.
For all of the latest events, how to donate and links to social media www.saveballardppatch.org
Seattle PARKing Day is Friday Sept 20 (not 26). We’ll be at a pop-up park at NW 65th St and 14th Ave NW.