While some stories of front yard gardeners battling against the local brass to keep their edible plots have happy endings — Ron Finley’s parking strip garden in South Los Angeles and Adam Guerrero’s veggie-heavy urban greenspace in Memphis being two recent examples — that sadly isn’t the case with Denise Morrison, a greenthumbed Tulsa, Okla., resident whose extensive edible garden was largely cleared away by authorities while she was awaiting a court date to work out a citation stemming from a complaint.
The story — hat tip to TreeHugger — is equally aggravating as it is sad. Once upon a time, Morrison’s front and backyards were filled with more than 100 plant varieties — KOTV lists flowers, apple trees, pecan trees, grapes, lemons, stevia, strawberries and several types of mint as constituting just a small part of the garden— that Morrison used not only for food, but for medicinal purposes as well to help treat her diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis.
In August of last year, Morrison received a letter saying that the city had received a complaint about her garden. Morrison took the initiative to meet with city inspectors to see what could be done, but those meetings turned out to be, well, fruitless. They ordered her to promptly remove everything from her garden (including a junked car sitting in her driveway) even though, according to city code, plants more than 12 inches tall can indeed be grown on one’s property provided that they’re edible. With that, Morrison called the police so that a citation could be issued — that way, the conflict could be worked out in court between the city and Morrison. On Aug. 15, Morrison appeared in court, but the judge delayed the case until October.
The very next day, the city — in apparent violation of court order — sent a team of workers to Morrison's home to clear out the garden. The workers removed nearly every matter of plant life including Morrison’s flower beds and fruit trees. As you can see from the before and after photos published by KOTV, the damage done by the city is dramatic. So much for self-sufficiency, eh?
"I came back three days later, sat in my driveway, cried and left,” Morrison told KOTV. “Not only are the plants my livelihood, they're my food and I was unemployed at the time and had no food left, no medicine left, and I didn't have insurance. They took away my life and livelihood."
Just last week, Morrison finally appeared in court regarding the initial citation issued last August. The garden portion of the citation was dismissed by the judge — talk about too little, too late — while Morrison plead no contest to having an operable vehicle in her driveway. Morrison has now filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city. In it, she claims that code enforcement officers, swooping in before the scheduled court day, acted without cause.
Needless to say, only good vibes to Morrison as she continues with her lawsuit against the city. The code enforcement department should be downright ashamed of itself and, in my opinion, forced to help Morrison replant her garden. And it looks like some other folks feel the exact same way.
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