On a sunny Tuesday morning, on a garden plot in the middle of Minneapolis, Cheryl Magnell and a friend drained a rain barrel and loaded it onto a wheelbarrow to cart away. No more tomatoes, potatoes or other vegetables will be planted in the Emily Peake Memorial Garden, a faded bit of agriculture in the changing Stevens Square neighborhood of Minneapolis.
Neighbors have heard it could become a parking lot. A few blocks west, half of the LaSalle Community Gardens is having its final growing season before the land is cleared for new apartments.
Robert Skafte, the garden coordinator for both the Emily Peake and LaSalle gardens, said the loss of green space is a side effect of the redevelopment boom in the surrounding area. Both gardens were in the spaces free of charge.
"It's always sad to lose two gardens in the same year, but you know, it's kind of the way things are going right now," he said. "For us, just to be able to secure what we have is pretty nice."
The Emily Peake Memorial Garden was dedicated in 2001, named after one of the founders of the Upper Midwest American Indian Center. A respected Ojibwe elder, she was a neighborhood organizer before her death in 1995.
"I have put in so much time and work in this garden, and I put in so much time to try to save this as a green spot," said Magnell, 56, the garden's steward.
The garden had fallen into disrepair over the past few years: planks marking the plots were rotting, the toolshed was rusting and unpruned trees cast unwanted shade. A small sign with the garden's name rested on the ground on Tuesday, its paint chipped away.
Skafte had a tough time finding dedicated people to maintain the space. Still, Magnell had hoped they were in the middle of a turnaround.
"Growing has been awesome in here," she said, later adding it was "like a little paradise in the middle of the city."
A contact person for Stevens Community Apartments, which owns the parcel, did not return a call for comment.
Scott Artley, executive director of the Stevens Square Community Organization, said the association is now looking at other places where community gardens could grow and where Peake could be remembered.
A new policy adopted by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board last fall allows community gardens in local parks. In Stevens Square, that could be in a green space bordering Interstate 94, known as the Overlook Garden, or in the neighborhood's namesake park.
Despite the looming construction, not all the green will be gone. Yellow Tree Development Corp., which is building the apartments on the LaSalle spot, plans to have a smaller community garden. And the other half of the garden, which is on a lot owned by the city, will remain.
"Memorializing Emily Peake as a community leader is something that can happen in lots of ways," Artley said. "Since it can't happen in that space anymore … are there other ways to memorialize her in the neighborhood?"