Traditional theories of public parks say NO, definitely not, but a new approach to fruit trees and bushes available to the public is pushing the boundaries of conventional open space wisdom. In the community of Del Aire, an unincorporated bit of LA County, artists and the community have come together to plant public orchards in their local park. While having fruit trees in public parks has brought about concerns of rotting fallen fruit and a public that ignores its existence, with the right signage, community awareness, and display of the fruit trees, Del Aire has high hopes for the success of this civic art/public orchard. See the full article from the LA Times here.
It seems to me that edible landscaping is much easier done on a small scale on space where the ownership is clearly defined, like in your own backyard or window box. Easier doesn’t always mean better, though, and a community can greatly benefit from growing and enjoying food together. Community gardens serve a variety of purposes- in some any member can eat the food grown, in many the food is sold at farmers markets, and in others its like individual backyard gardens for those who don’t have one at home. Putting fruit trees in an open space, one that actively displays that its produce are for everyone to share, is a great communal idea, but one that can possibly become abused. Can people move beyond the Tragedy of the Commons, where a shared resource is abused by individuals focused on their own wants, and retain a resource that the public can share fairly? On the reverse side, will enough people take the fruit that it doesn’t create a decomposing mess? I suppose these are the issues that kept cities from planting fruit trees in public parks in the past, but I hope that with the community involvement displayed in Del Aire, this public orchard will be a success and others will follow suit.