One of our most exciting design projects in 2014 was a project in collaboration with Atlanta Food and Farm to enhance and expand food production in the Four Corners Park, located in Peoplestown, just south of Turner Field. The park is situated along the planned Atlanta Beltline Project and is included in the Peoplestown Park Master Plan as one of several park planning projects (in partnership with Park Pride) located along the Beltline.
Four Corners Park is a 3.4 acre site with a community center, picnic pavilion, playground, basketball courts and playing fields as well as natural wooded areas. A small community garden was originally established by the Friends of Peoplestown Parks group, but fell into neglect soon after. Park Pride contacted the Fertile Crescent Steering Committee through their partner, Atlanta Food and Farm, to ask the committee if they would assume management and responsibility for development of the community garden, which they accepted. Through a grant awarded from the Annie E Casey Foundation, Atlanta Food and Farm partnered with Sustenance Design to develop a comprehensive landscape design to enhance meaningful and sustainable food production in the park.
After our site inventory and analysis, Sustenance Design's Lindsey Mann and Sumayya Allen with Atlanta Food and Farm's Kwabena Nkromo facilitated two workshops to garner community input to help guide the design process in enhancing food production capacity at Four Corners Park. The Emmaus House offered their facility as gathering space for these workshops. Overwhelmingly, the residents communicated the importance of growing more food and edibles in the park and planning for the space to be a model site for community members to learn from and apply sustainable methods of production in their own backyard gardens. In addition, attendees expressed the desire that children become more involved, and that there be educational programs for adults and youth in the garden. These meetings were crucial in steering the landscape design process.
Sustenance Design's permaculture designer, Sumayya Allen, assumed the lead in designing the Four Corners Community Ecological Agriculture plan. The design integrates various examples of urban farming and agroecological landscapes within one site.
The current community garden is transformed into an educational children's garden, equipped with a cob pizza oven, which would be built through a community workshop. Behind the children's garden is a fig and blueberry orchard, which borders the adjacent 5000 square foot urban production farm. Vine production of kiwi, raspberry and blackberry is also included in the design. Chickens and bees are designed for in an enclosure on the existing forest's edge.
Designing for public spaces means designing for the entire community. It is important to include involvement for the youth, the elders, and everyone in between, therefore we designed a wheelchair accessible raised bed community garden for Peoplestown's senior citizens. The desire for a pavilion and lawn space for events and gatherings was communicated, which guided us in designing for a light-load greenroof pavilion which would serve as both picnic area and stage for community events and gatherings. The pavilion opens to a large existing lawn space. Adjacent to the lawn is an area which currently has several large mature oaks and sycamores, and due to it's low-lying area serves as a natural water detention site. We planted a native bird habitat with species including winterberry holly, black cherry, milkweed, goldenrod, sassafras, bee balm, river oats, and swamp sunflower.
Perhaps the highlight of the design is the food forest, which includes mulberry, pawpaw, persimmon, Chineses chestnut, apple, pear, plum, hazelnut, pomegranate, Nanking cherry, serviceberry and elderberry among many other edible forest species. The food forest path is a spiral labyrinth, slowing the visitor down to observe and appreciate and taste from the species contained within the forest. Reaching the center of the food forest one finds beds of herbs, asparagus, cardoon and strawberry fields beneath an 8-foot lookout tower.
It is an honor to work on landscape design projects for community spaces, education, and to enhance food production capacity. Urban gardens are known to improve quality of life for residents. They provide the opportunity to gain skills for growing food for one's self and family as well as provide a place to connect to nature. With the emphasis on community involvement from the start, this project has the potential for long-term sustainability. We are looking forward to working together with Atlanta Food and Farm in bringing the Four Corners Ecological Agriculture plan to life in the near future.