Unused land within city limits has potential, and some community organizers have begun turning one such area in Harrisonburg into a place of social and ecological restoration. WMRA’s Christopher Clymer Kurtz reports.
Organizers of the proposed Blacks Run Forest Farm and Folk School say that the nearly three and a half acres, which include Salvation Army land and two city-owned lots, will be the site of an orchard for native fruits and nuts, a forest for animal habitat and growing timber and firewood, and a place for watershed restoration, educational workshops and community health.
It’s on the proposed route of the Northend Greenway bike path and corridor park, nestled behind the Salvation Army Center for Worship and Service on Ashby Avenue.
JONATHAN MCRAY: It’d be several different kinds of parks all together, along with alternative transportation, and also food and fuel and medicine and rest and demonstrating all these different kinds of things that we can do here in the city.
Jonathan McRay is a farmer and facilitator who with Vine and Fig, a community and non-profit organization committed to the creation of sustainable systems in Harrisonburg, is incubating the Farm for two years, establishing funding and program partnerships with educational and other institutions.
They have already hosted one class, and another is scheduled, and middle school groups have helped with reforestation and waterway repairs.
MCRAY: This landscape has been extremely degraded. This stream has been wounded and abused because of the effect of these toxins that are here. So how do we remediate the toxins that are in our soil but also in our society and in our souls? These are all part of the same work.
Organizers are pursuing leases of nominal amounts of money for the Salvation Army land and city-owned lots, in exchange for being stewards of the land.