Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Public Vines & Parks Programming

On public lands throughout Paris, pocket-sized community vineyards are tended by neighborhood groups. The most well-known is the Montmarte vineyard, which claims an entire sloping block in the heart of the neighborhood, and makes enough wine (1,500 half litre bottles) for an annual harvest festival. Reportedly there are 150 such vineyards in Paris and its suburbs. The three vineyards highlighted below are part of public parks, each built fairly recently.

Parc de Bercy in the 14th arrondismont, opened in 1994, was designed by the landscape architect Phillipe Raguin. On the site of a historic wine storage area, the new park retains many traces of the past: in the historic buildings which dot the landscape, and the rail tracks for the train that served the winemakers of the area. The park also features a small vineyard, managed by a neighborhood group. The larger park is a sequence of gardens, from wooded glades, to reflecting pools and rose gardens at the residential end of the park, to grand plazas and water walls at the stadium end of the park.

[Vineyard at Parc Bercy]

[Perennial garden at Parc de Bercy]

Parc de Belleville integrates a small vineyard of chardonnay and pinot grapes amongst strolling paths, arbors, an adventure playground and a sloping lawn that offers views over the city. The vineyard serves primarily as a nod to the agricultural past of the Belleville district, although the actual site of the park was a gypsum quarry.

[Vineyard at Parc de Belleville]
Parc Georges-Brassen, located on the site of a former slaughter house, features a 1200 square meter vineyard of pinot noir grapes. The grapes are harvested by the community and the wine is sold in a neighborhood bistro. The park also features another farm program - bee-keeping. An annual sale of the honey takes place in the park near the beehouses. Other programs include a large playground with climbing wall and a rose garden.

[Parc Georges-Brassen, view over lake to neighborhood]

[Vineyard at Parc George Brassens]

These vineyards are fascinating precedent for ag programs in public parks. Each is compact, and occupies a distinct zone within the park. Each involves the community at some level in the harvest and sale of the final product. The vineyards also reflect the culture and history of the area. How would this look stateside? Orange groves in Fort Lauderdale or Los Angeles, dairy cows roaming the hills of suburban Boston parks, cherry orchards for an Ann Arbor park? Imagining such programs requires us to mine our agricultural history, and to address issues of identity, ownership, ecology and climate in a way public parks rarely do.