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Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023

Charlottesville City Councilors expressed resounding support for a community garden at Booker T. Washington Park last night. Cultivate Charlottesville floated the idea for a 10,000 square foot garden in the park to replace the many urban gardens the city has lost to development in the last few years.

“I think this is just so exciting,” said Councilor Leah Puryear.

City Council expresses support for creating a 10,000 square foot community garden in Booker T. Washington Park

Cultivate Charlottesville proposed the idea after giving an hour-long presentation on the park’s history and the people it could serve.

Like most places in and around Charlottesville, this park’s history is long and complicated. It was once part of the Rose Hill Plantation. But its owners, the Craven family, could not afford to keep it without using enslaved labor. So, they sold it after the Civil War. Many of the newly free African Americans who had been enslaved on the plantation stayed there, moving into neighborhoods called Kelleytown and Tinsleytown, both part of the present day Rose Hill Neighborhood.

The area that would become Booker T. Washington Park — along present-day Preston Avenue — was the southern portion of the old plantation. It became known as the “Pest House property” during the Scarlet Fever epidemic in the early 1900s because city officials proposed building a shelter there for the sick. It’s unclear if the shelter was actually built. But, at some point, the city started using the land as a trash dump. We know this because in 1927, the Daily Progress announced that “the city dumping grounds on Preston Avenue are being converted to a park for colored people.”

Paul Goodloe McIntire bought the land in 1926 around the same time that he bought lots of land around Charlottesville. This was during the Jim Crow era of legal segregation. McIntire donated more than 90 acres of land for a park that could only be used by white people — present day McIntire Park. At the same time, he donated those nine “Pest House property” acres for a park where Black people would be allowed to go.

Over the next decades, Booker T. Washington Park became a focal point for the segregated Black community in Charlottesville.

In the foreground, a group of six Black people — three women, two men — wearing fine clothing and posing for the camera. Behind them, a gathering of dozens of people, also dressed up.
An undated image from a gathering at Washington Park. Credit: Courtesy of Charlottesville Parks & Recreation

Want to see a massive community garden with free produce in Booker T. Washington Park? City Council hears about it Monday

Cultivate Charlottesville hopes that a garden at Washington Park will continue to serve the community around it. Anyone will be able volunteer, and anyone will be able to take food, its leaders say. At the same time, produce from the garden would be intentionally distributed to folks in the area with low incomes who would otherwise struggle to eat fresh produce.

It will likely be a few years before this garden is built. The Charlottesville Parks and Recreation Department must first complete its strategic plan, which will include plans for this garden. That plan should be finished by early 2025. After it is approved, Cultivate may get the green light to move forward.

From the community

A blue block with the words, "Shop local with our greater C-ville Black business guide" and a button that says "Explore the Guide." Two logos are on the right, on that says ENVISION and another that says "United Way United Way of Greater Charlottesville"

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A school bus is pictured from behind in a trailer park surrounded by trees with changing leaves.
Credit: Kori Price/Charlottesville Tomorrow

Albemarle finds school bus seats for hundreds of students, though more continue waiting

In other news, Albemarle County Public Schools is quickly chipping away at the long waitlist for school bus seats. The division started the year with nearly 1,000 students waiting for seats on buses. It didn’t have enough drivers to fill the routes.

The waitlist reduction is mainly the result of re-working routes, though the division said they are also in the process of training 10 new drivers. Once those drivers hit the road, all students should have seats.

Thanks for reading!

Jessie Higgins, managing editor

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I'm Charlottesville Tomorrow's managing editor and health and safety reporter. If there’s something you think we should be investigating, please email me at jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org! And you can follow all the work we do by subscribing to our free newsletter! Hablo español, y quiero mantener a la comunidad hispanohablante informada. Si tienes preguntas o información que debo saber, por favor, envíame un correo electrónico a jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org.