Fruit Tree Inititiative Grows Hope on Big Pine Key

Big Pine Key, FL (April 30, 2014) – A local Florida Keys resident has created the Growing Hope Initiative to turn a city’s eye sore into an edible community park. So far it it has about 35 tree species–and plans in the works for all the pieces to create a thriving public space.

Photo courtesy of Ryan McCarthy, KeysInfoNet

Photo courtesy of Ryan McCarthy, KeysInfoNet

A once-flourishing fruit-tree grove on Big Pine Key, the 1.76-acre Grimal estate had fallen by the wayside. It was overgrown with invasive plant species, became a homeless encampment and accumulated $850,000 in county code fines.

But local resident Patrick Garvey saw its potential from his first visit there in 2011, created the Growing Hope Initiative and purchased the land. Since then, it’s been a labor of love he hopes to turn into an “edible community park and also a skilled sharing center.”

Tree species so far include mango, lychee, bay rum, soursope, and even cacao. Garvey hopes the park will eventually serve as a place to hold local photography, painting, and yoga workshops.

“It’s not just about us dictating what it would be; it’s the community having a voice in directing that,” he said.

Garvey, a Canada native, worked for several years in Key West for the state Department of Children and Families.

“I was tasked with food-stamp outreach,” he said. “While I was working with that program, I realized we really weren’t teaching people to create their own self-sufficiency. I felt my mission was to empower families that way,” he said.

Read more about Garvey’s background and vision for a Community Grove.