Tucker, GA — Tucker has canceled immediate plans to relocate an orchard from the recreation center to the library, according to a letter issued on Jan. 26.
It’s a win for supporters of Tucker parks who showed up in support of keeping the orchard intact. Supporters at the Jan. 11 City Council meeting, gained traction on social media and wrote letters to Tucker Observer and City Council members.
Thomas Nuhfer, the first high school intern at Tucker Orchard Guild, learned about the potential relocation in early January.
“Because fruit trees need to be planted young in order to establish themselves and avoid root damage, you essentially can’t buy fruit trees as mature and established as these,” said Nuhfer. “Over a 20-year life span, could be more, the trees could produce 2,250 pounds of fruit … that’s almost $50,000 of organically grown, nutrient rich fruit, free to families in Tucker.”
This week’s letter from Parks and Recreation Director Rip Robertson states that community partner Roots Down advised the city to delay the relocation to next winter due to a “mild winter and short frost period.” The need for programmable space has not diminished, the letter reads.
“This decision will also allow for further discussion regarding the relocation and help us prepare to successfully complete the move. We are certainly sensitive to the history of the Orchard and will continue to engage the Friends of Tucker Parks groups and the Tucker Orchard Guild throughout this process,” Robertson wrote.
But a Friends of Tucker Parks board member said Robertson’s letter is full of contradictions. A proposal to move the orchard never came before Friends of Tucker Parks, board meetings which are attended by Robertson or another Tucker Parks and Recreation department staff member.
The city of Tucker maintains it has been a public discussion for a year.
At the Jan. 13 City Council meeting, Mayor Frank Auman addressed the pushback.
“I know that we’ve talked about this project at the rec center for at least a year. It’s not new to those of us who’ve been on council for some time. It happens more often than not that the public gets engaged in the last 2% of the consideration. They hear about it and they feel like it’s been hidden from them, and had not a chance to say something about it,” Auman said. “Not true.”
Auman said community feedback can make City Council aware of aspects they hadn’t considered.
“People suddenly became aware of something we’ve been talking about for a while, and all the alarms go off, but they did the right thing. They called it to our attention. They’ve made us aware of aspects of it that maybe we haven’t taken into account before, and we will,” said Auman. “We count on the public to be engaged. And that’s part of our role as elected representatives to make sure they’re aware and given the opportunity to get engaged.”
Roots Down will remain as a consultant to Tucker Parks and Recreation “to ensure the move either to the library or an alternative location will benefit all involved,” Robertson said. “We will also be partnering with Roots Down to create educational programs that will not only include the Orchard, but also many other aspects of our parks.”
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