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Vidalia community garden closed for new industry

VIDALIA — Terri Morris recently became a gardener with nowhere to garden Monday.

The City of Vidalia informed Morris last month that the 20 acres of land on D.A. Biglane Road, which she and other local residents had turned into a community garden, would no longer be available for them to use.

The land is part of a larger plot that an agriculture industry is planning to lease after the Vidalia Port opens.

While Morris said she isn’t against new businesses coming to the city, she said the news was unexpected and unfortunate for the community garden.

“We were led to believe that there was little chance all the land would be leased and that, even if it was, whoever was leasing it wouldn’t mind us staying,” Morris said. “Within a year, the city had leased it all and they don’t want us to stay there.

“I’m all for new business, but it left us with nowhere to go.”

One of Morris’ backup plans included asking the Concordia Parish Police Jury if residents could use a portion of property behind the courthouse for the garden.

“That was a perfect spot because there’s plenty of land out there and it’s been used for gardening before,” Morris said. “There had been an old sheriff who used to garden it before, so we thought it would be perfect.”

But Morris’ request was denied Monday after board president Melvin Ferrington said the garden would be a liability for the jury and the parish.

“We were advised by the district attorney’s office to hold off on it because if someone were to get hurt out there we would be liable,” Ferrington said. “I think what they want to do is a great program, and I’d love to be able to help them with it, but it’s just too much liability for the parish.”

Morris said Tuesday she would have to return to the drawing board to find other plots of land available for the garden.

“I didn’t think the police jury was going to shoot us down like that, so I’m a little disappointed,” Morris said. “We’re going to have to keep looking for other places, but for now we are completely displaced.”

An ideal option Morris said would be to relocate the garden to the Vidalia Municipal Complex on U.S. 84 in front of City Hall.

Part of the city’s plans for the complex include building the William T. Polk City Park, which is located on 25 acres of land to the west of the complex. Apart from basketball courts, a fishing pond with amenities and a spray ground fountain, the initial plans for the park also included relocating the community garden and farmer’s market to the complex.

The park is not expected to be complete until 2016.

And until those plans become more finalized, Morris said she would continue looking for a place to plant the community garden.

“The land in front of the complex would be a great option, but it’s something we need to go back and check with the city on,” Morris said. “We’re just going to have to keep looking for other places.”