“Twelve years ago, local volunteers teamed up with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to replace trash with trees and establish Asheville’s first edible park. City Seeds, a now-defunct local nonprofit, enlisted a group of Warren Wilson College students and other volunteers to transform a rubble-filled lot into an urban orchard. Today, George Washington Carver Park occupies the former site of Stephens-Lee High School, which served African-American students during segregation; it was demolished in 1975 in the name of urban renewal.
Boasting more than 40 varieties of fruit and nut trees, the park serves as both a peaceful place to relax and a city farm providing the community with nutritious, locally produced food. “”We have everything from A to Z growing there,”” notes permaculture guru “”T. Bud Barkslip”” (aka Bill Whipple). “”A for apple and Z for Ziziphus (also called jujube fruit or Chinese date).””
Barkslip learned of the orchard five years ago while looking for a good place to view the Fourth of July fireworks. Realizing that he was surrounded by fruit trees, he also saw that they needed attention. “”Many people are intimidated by fruit trees, since they need lots of cutting and care.”” Barkslip now helps provide that care, along with a cadre of volunteers from the Bountiful Cities Project.
Seeing the park as a source of inspiration for the community, Barkslip hopes the experience of harvesting fresh fruits and nuts from the land will encourage residents to plant trees of their own while continuing to enjoy their fair share of the park’s annual harvest. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, he reports. Since this is a public park, people are welcome to pick from the trees, though it’s interesting to see that most people aren’t used to sharing. We ask people to take only what they need.