Wylie Street Garden May Be Facing Its Final Season

Petitions Held Off Developers for Several Years

Proposed plan for the Wylie Street Garden in 2015. (Photo: Paige Byrne)

An urban garden on the corner of 13th and Wylie Streets NE won permission to stay open for 2016, but the 14-year-old community space faces a problem — the property owner plans to sell and the current cultivators can’t afford to buy the plot.

H Street Community Development Corporation (HSCDC) owns the property and agreed to let the growers work for another year. The Wylie Street Garden group petitioned HSCDC and its executive director Kenneth Brewer in September 2014 to stay.

But fundraising to buy the estimated $250,000 plot remains out of the group’s reach, said Wylie gardener, Ward 6 resident and teacher Paige Byrne.

“Efforts to get Ben’s Chili Bowl, get restaurants to unite and pitch in to buy the land and use that land for their kitchens — that didn’t work,” she said. “I’ve run out of resources to try to unite and help us.”

Byrne stumbled upon the gardenwhen she moved to the area in 2006. With an average of 17 plots, the community of neighbors and local schools use the site as a place of peace and learning, she said.

Wylie Garden supporters tried to show how the plot can help the District Department of Energy and Environment’s (DOEE) efforts to keep the Anacostia River and local water sources clean. Routing storm water through the garden dirt filters it before it moves to the river.

“The alley can’t even handle the drainage from the restaurants,” Byrne said.  

It comes down to a lack of money to buy the plot, though, she said.

Byrne worries that without the garden the H Street corridor will lose a space for community, routine and calm among growing urban development. Elementary students use the space to learn about growing healthy food. Local men in need of money often mow the lawn for a small fee. Youth come weed in their spare time.

“It’s connecting residents, it’s connecting schools and we’ve had chefs use plots for simple things like chives and cilantro,” Byrne said.

Despite successes over the last few years, though, the Wylie Garden community doesn’t know if it will come back after this season.

“This is the last green space on the H Street corridor,” she said. “People appreciate having a little bit of green.”

For more information on the future of Wylie Street garden go to wyliestreet.org.