A Brief History of Troy Gardens

A watercolor aerial view of Troy Gardens.Troy Gardens
500 Troy Drive
Madison, WI
Google Maps link.

In 1995, the state of Wisconsin placed a 15-acre undeveloped site abutting the Mendota Mental Health Center grounds on the State's surplus land list. The State intended to sell the site, most likely to a private developer. Area residents and people from other parts of the city had been gardening on 4 acres of the site for 15 years, and using much of the rest of it to bird-watch, walk their dogs, and simply wander the land.

Alarmed at the prospect of losing this valuable resource, concerned gardeners and neighbors, facilitated by the Northside Planning Council (NPC, which represents residents of 17 of Madison's Northside neighborhoods) began meeting and planning. Several non-profit groups - the Madison Area Community Land Trust (MACLT), the Urban Open Space Foundation (UOSF), and the Community Action Coalition Garden Program (CAC) jointed together to form the Troy Gardens Coalition.

Several representatives from the University of Wisconsin joined the Coalition in 1996 when the State added a 16 acre landlocked undeveloped area to the north of the original site to the surplus list.

The Coalition developed an innovative proposal for integrated land use, one that combined housing with open space and agricultural uses. The city accepted the concept plan in 1998 for the community vision that was presented.

In 1997, the state agreed to take the entire 31-acre site off the surplus land list. The Coalition was granted a 16-year lease to use the land for community gardens and open space. By the summer of 1998, the Coalition and the state reached an agreement for a 50-year lease, with a provision to buy the property. After years of fund-raising and development work, the Madison Area Community Land Trust, with support from the City of Madison, succeeded in purchasing the property on December 28, 2001.

Since that time, Community GroundWorks (formerly Friends of Troy Gardens) has been developing the land. The 5-acre community farm has been fenced in to ward against deer predation, the community gardens have been expanded, the natural areas have been restored, and 30 units of mixed-income housing have been developed. The community vision has taken root - but is still developing. Please join us - as a volunteer or as a member - to be part of growing Troy Gardens.

For more information about Troy Gardens, please visit the Troy Community Gardens section in the What We Do portion of this website.