Activists allegedly plant ‘jug handle garden’ on New Jersey highway to oppose development project
One of the many quirks of life in New Jersey is turning right to go left via the New Jersey jug handle.
Recently four Ocean Township police officers arrested Karlo Edmonds for trespassing on the jug handle at Route 35 and Deal Road. The reason Edmonds gave for allegedly trespassing on the jug handle -- he was allegedly tending to his garden.
Edmonds and others allegedly planted fig trees and basil at the intersection. It is considered trespassing because the state Department of Transportation had recently put up signs specifically, it seems, to keep the gardeners off the jug handle.
Days later, DOT workers plowed the garden under, putting an end to what may have been the first jug handle garden in New Jersey.
The garden was started by supporters of a campaign called Save 32 Acres. It was formed to oppose a plan approved by the town last year to turn the area – one of the last wooded stretches of Route 35 in Monmouth County – into 70 townhomes, a Marriot hotel, a Wawa, Chick-fil-A and other retail spaces.
“The amount of community that we built upon this garden was gigantic and really spurred the movement of Save 32 Acres where a lot of people in their cars would say, ‘We love what you're doing, thank you,’” says Lana Leonard, an opponent of the development project.
Ocean Township Councilman David Fisher said the crackdown was “flat out about safety. Nobody should be in the intersection doing anything.”
Fisher said that besides the danger of being struck by a vehicle, the gardeners did not have permission got dig in an area that could have underground wires or pipelines.
The activists say that the garden dispute only underscores their larger point – if the area is too dangerous and congested for a few people to tend to a garden, isn’t it too congested for all of the development?
A spokesman for the DOT said that garden was planted on state land without permission, and that officials tried to get the activists to remove the plants but received no response.
The development plan for that intersection remains the subject of a court battle between the developer and opponents.