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They Unpaved a Parking Lot and put up Paradise Plots- Article from Seattle Refined

Nestled in 1.5 acres of a de-paved parking lot in Kent, World Relief’s Paradise Parking Plots is a flourishing community garden, complete with 50 garden plots, rain gardens, cisterns and restoration areas. Community members come together to grow food, share gardening tips and foster this vibrant green space.

In 2016, World Relief Western Washington, an organization that welcomes immigrants and newly-arriving refugees by providing services such as housing, English language classes, employment and immigration legal services, held community listening sessions to learn how they could best serve the community.

In these sessions, community members expressed interest in having a space to garden.

(Photo Credit: Sean Puno, Talitha Consultants, Tilth Alliance)

Many community members shared that they come from backgrounds where growing food is a common practice, but now live in apartments and have limited space to grow their own food. And in these apartment complexes, there is often limited safe space for their children to play outside. Community members also noted that finding fresh, culturally-appropriate produce in local grocery stores and markets is challenging.

The community wanted a garden, so Paradise Parking Plots was born.

And now, what started as an oversized, unused parking lot at Hillside Church in Kent’s East Hill neighborhood has been transformed into a life-giving community garden.

Individual community members have a safe place to grow food, learn about gardening techniques in the Pacific Northwest, and share ideas and seeds with other gardeners.

(Photo Credit: Hannah Letinich)

Read stories about the gardeners, like Bhutanese gardeners who grew up in a farming community and spent time assisting local farmers while living in a refugee camp in Nepal; an Iraqi gardener who grows organic produce for her family; and a Ukrainian gardener who shares how he feels relaxed and calm when at the garden.

Lucas McClish, Community Garden Coordinator, points out that something that had no life – an asphalt parking lot – has become a place where food grows and nourishes people.

But, McClish notes, the garden is more than just a green space for growing food. It was designed and built to have significant environmental benefits. For example, the garden has 4,000-gallon rainwater collection cisterns to collect rainwater from the church roof for irrigation, five onsite rain gardens, and a flood-mitigating bioswale that collectively diverts over 1.1 million gallons of stormwater annually. The garden is used as an educational site for local middle school science classes, and young people volunteer in the garden as they learn about the environment and green infrastructure.

(Photo Credit: Sean Puno, Talitha Consultants, Tilth Alliance)

You don’t have to live near the garden to participate. Here are ways you can help the garden continue to flourish:

  • Volunteer: As you can imagine, there’s always more to be done in and for the garden. In addition to occasional group volunteer events, volunteers with specific experience in botany, agriculture, construction, environmental education, or translation help the garden thrive.
  • Financial Giving: It takes money to keep the garden up and running. From plants to irrigation supplies to subsidized garden plots (each plot costs $40/year to rent), financial gifts help the garden run smoothly.
  • Gifts-In-Kind: In addition to financial gifts, you can donate gift-in-kind items, such as garden tools or plant starts.

Learn more about World Relief’s Paradise Parking Plots Community Garden here.

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