More than 300 empty West Louisville lots could become community gardens

There are hundreds of vacant lots in West Louisville. Most are covered in trash and weeds. One man wants to fill them with community gardens instead.
Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 10:36 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 16, 2022 at 10:37 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - There are hundreds of vacant lots in West Louisville. Most are covered in trash and weeds. One man wants to fill them with community gardens instead.

Wayne Long is Jefferson County’s University of Kentucky cooperative extension service agent. He’s working on a special project collecting soil samples in those vacant lots to see if they are safe for plants.

Long has been working at these sites since last fall, and of the 80 or so he’s checked out, only a few are in good shape.

“Maybe three. And I’m overly cautious for a reason,” said Long.

That reason? He’s finding lots of lead in the soil.

“Not too surprising. This particular lot that we’re standing on has over 700 parts per million,” said Long.

That’s about twice what the EPA says is safe.

The lead comes not from pipes, but from paint. A lot of these old homes either still have lead paint, or they were torn down and the paint left behind contaminated the soil.

But that doesn’t mean the lots are worthless.

“You can put pollinators and fruit trees on it. You can do other things besides food production,” said Long.

You can also plant raised beds, like the Parkland Community Garden. Long helped out with that project about 10 years ago and that’s what got his wheels turning on this idea.

These gardens can make a big difference because there is so little access to fresh food on the west side of town.

Just like with the Parkland garden, he needs the community to buy into his project.

So far, that seems to be going well.

Johnny Scott lives in the area and has seen Long doing his work. He’s on board.

“I mean it feeds you and your friends too in the process, you know what I’m saying? I grow tomatoes and onions. I even grow potatoes,” said Scott.

“You’re looking at so many different aspects of the neighborhood, different components. There’s food, transportation, and having to have access to that fresh food,” said Long.

He checked around and it looks like no one else in the country is doing this kind of thing.

He’s about halfway through a 3-year fellowship for the project.

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