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Peoria neighbors stage sit-in protest after city flattens community garden

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PEORIA (WEEK) - The City of Peoria and owners of a gas station at Sheridan Road and Main Street have taken down the local community garden.

Neighbors say they're heartbroken, while city leaders contend the garden was no longer being cared for.

The city plowed over the garden, leaving just the dirt at the site where dozens of people gathered Friday night for a sit-in to protest the destruction.

"I pulled up after it was gone, I walked into the middle and I broke down crying...I'm super upset about it," said Jessica McGhee.

She started the community garden with her husband 10 years ago in a handshake agreement with the property owners.

As of Thursday, the owners and the city made it clear that agreement no longer stands when they razed over the garden without warning.

"We would've come and grabbed our stuff but the fact that this was gorilla style done without any notice is the problem here," said Adam Gasper, treasurer of the Renaissance Park Association.

Several people called it a direct attack on the homeless population that lives near the garden, but city leaders deny that.

Peoria Community Development Director Ross Black says the garden itself was the problem.

"The issue is that the garden was not being maintained...broken liquor bottles, garbage, litter, food, weeds."

"It's not a property that anyone should have to put up with next door to them," Black said.

The association claims they've done the upkeep.

"Our garden coordinator comes by once a week to check on things and make sure it wasn't in ill repair. I would have hoped they would've said something before taking things into their owns hands and demolished it down, but nobody contacted us," Gasper said.

The community development director responded, "We didn't and perhaps we should have."

"We weren't trying to hide it from them," Black also said.

Black added the property owners have talked of renovating the area.

Friday evening, there was a sit-in and food drive. Clothes and water were left for homeless people who've now been displaced.

Association members say they would work with the city to find another spot for a new community garden, adding they'll take all the help they can get.


Trisha Christakes

Howard Packowitz

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