'Punks' taking over York City community garden


York City's benevolent "punks" are up to some good again, with their sights set on rehabbing an overgrown garden into a working community garden, said Steve Klinedinst, cofounder and president of the grass-roots nonprofit Punks for Positivity.

The group, which regularly organizes trash cleanups around the city, entered into a one-year licensing agreement with the city's Redevelopment Authority, which owns the land at 343-351 Cottage Hill Road.

The agreement was approved by the RDA's board Wednesday.

The last licensing agreement — with a local church — had expired, and the garden fell into neglect.

"It's not run well now, but it was formerly one of our most productive community gardens," said David Cross, chairman of the RDA board.

The garden, which is across the street from a playground and one row of houses from the Codorus Creek, is overgrown. But there are several stalks bearing Brussels sprouts, a peach tree and grapevines. Tools are in the shed, and a tangled hose lies beneath a dense layer of weeds.

Inspiration: Klinedinst is excited to take over what he said is one of the city's oldest community gardens, dating back to the 1960s or '70s.

Inspiration struck when he and organization cofounder and vice president Dustin Hildebrand noticed another community garden in the city.

Just when the two were looking to expand their work beyond trash cleanups, Craig Walt, who works for the city's Bureau of Health, came to them with the suggestion of taking over the neglected garden.

Since then, "people have been reaching out to us," Klinedinst said.

New volunteers and a trained horticulturist have expressed interest in helping with the garden.

Plans: Klinedinst said the garden will fill a need for affordable fresh produce in the neighborhood as well as bring the community together.

He works at Mezzogiorno, an Italian restaurant in Central Market.

"It's not expensive to shop (at Central Market)," he said. But for a family of five with a low income, it might be too much.

He said the group is likely to set up a stand at the community garden, selling its produce "as cheap as possible," and any money made will go back into the garden or into other community-oriented projects.

The two say they hope to get the neighborhood involved in the work of maintaining the garden as well.

That has happened with the group's trash cleanups, some of which Hildebrand said have drawn almost 25 volunteers.

"As soon as people saw us (cleaning up an area), they started coming out," he said.

Combating stigma: The garden is just a few blocks from the Parkway housing project.

"That area gets a bad rap," Klinedinst said. "We want people to see something good coming from there. If people see that, maybe they won't be as quick to judge the people living in that area."

Klinedinst's wish to remove a negative stigma from the neighborhood extends to the whole city of York and goes along with the organization's mission to "change the stigma of people who look like (himself), with tattoos, a mohawk, piercings ... and to bring the community together."

— Reach Julia Scheib at jscheib@yorkdispatch.com.