By DAVID SKOLNICK
Despite the intentional destruction of more than half of the fruit trees growing in an urban area on the city’s South Side, its founder is determined to keep going with some security measures.
R. Mason Carratt, who founded the Food Forest on the corner of Hillman Street and Auburndale Avenue, said his discovery early Monday “came as a shock.”
Carratt, who also started the Youngstown Inner City Garden at 3406 Hillman St., is remaining positive despite the obvious disappointment in his voice.
“I’ve been through a lot worse,” he said. “It will come together. It won’t discourage me in the least. It won’t break us. It will make us more powerful.”
Carratt said he found 29 of about 50 fruit trees — pears, apples, cherries, plums and peaches — cut with what appears to be pruning shears. He made the discovery early Monday and believes it occurred overnight Sunday.
Carratt wants to raise money for a fence around the Food Forest and for wireless cameras.
After reading on Vindy.com about what happened, Mayor John A. McNally said the city will donate video cameras to Carratt and will help him raise the money needed for a fence.
“I’m very distressed to see what can only be described as an act of stupidity ruin a lot of good work Mason is trying to do on Hillman,” McNally said.
Established last year, the garden and forest provide free freshly grown produce to the needy.
Carratt started the garden at 3406 Hillman St., an overgrown, garbage-filled vacant property that abuts his backyard. After cleaning the property, Carratt planted watermelons, cucumbers, squashes, lettuce, collard greens, tomatoes, beans, peppers, sweet corn and lettuce.
It was such a success that Carratt expanded across the street a few months later to create the Food Forest with fruit trees.
Volunteers, including those with experience in growing fruit trees, are working to save as many of the damaged trees as possible.
Dray Perkins, an urban farmer who lives on the North Side, said he is taking clippings from the trees that were cut down and will try to regrow them.
“I’m pretty confident we’ll get good results,” he said. “We’ll know in a week or so whether they can be re-rooted. Seeing the damage gave me an uneasy feeling. But we can rebuild it with some sort of new growth.”
This is not a good time of the year to plant new fruit trees because of the weather, Carratt said. The best time is early spring and late fall, he said.