Around 1988 two groups approached the Civic Garden Center with interest in building a community garden. The first group, which was more actively interested in a garden, were people from a food cooperative. This group, represented by Oloye Adajamon, had about 15 families that ordered natural foods through bulk, wholesale sources. They also worked actively with neighborhood youth”¦ providing mentors, encouraging healthy diets and teaching about African culture and heritage.
The other group was a Montessori School located next to the vacant lot that the Coop Group had already identified. Their interest was in seasonal, outdoor activities for the children. So, with this backdrop, Ben Long and Gary Goosman began convening representatives that were willing to pursue testing for the soil, leasing of the land (owned by the Frisch’s Company) and ultimately the design for the garden.
Over several sessions the core group worked on a design for the garden. It included a border perennial bed between the fence and the sidewalk (planted with raspberries, blackberry lilly, shasta daisies, purple coneflower, stachys and many other flowering plants). The design also included an indented sitting area (outside the fence, but in the shade) for neighbors to enjoy for small gatherings, resting or just visiting. The other side of the common area included an arbor with grapes to shield the view of the compost pile and tools.
The garden also incorporated a small orchard of apple and pear trees along the southern edge of the garden, adjacent to the only house that borders the garden. The rest of the garden was to be laid out in 10 feet by 20 feet gardens that would be divided in half with a path. This created two beds (4 feet by 20 feet) for use by each family.
The planning occurred during the winter and after acquiring a lease with Frisch’s construction began in the spring of that year. Additional soil was brought in, the fence was established around the perimeter and the landscape areas were planted with donated and purchased plants. In the first few years there was always some garden space set aside for donations to local food pantries as well as extra produce for general consumption by members of the food coop.
One of the most memorable moments for Walnut Hills Garden was a newspaper article in the Cincinnati Enquirer. The article was looking at race relations in Cincinnati and highlighted the friendship between two gardeners from this site. It detailed the friendship that sprang up from two gardeners (one African American and the other Caucasian) and talked about the things these gardeners had learned about each other while spending time in the community garden. The two gardeners were John Brown of Walnut Hills and Wayne McConnell of Norwood. John has passed away, but his wife, Alice still gardens in this community garden.
The Civic Garden Center recieved a grant in 2005 to construct new raised beds and install an independent water source for the Walnut Hills Garden.