Billy Goat Hill Garden Inc. is located at 2004 Payne Street on the property of Mercy Sacred Heart Village in the Clifton neighborhood of Louisville, Kentucky.  The garden is a 100 percent volunteer project that has reclaimed a former landfill with the help of neighbors and partners. 

Fifty years ago the four acre plot and adjoining property was owned by an asphalt paving company and used as a landfill.  Over the years, there was a significant amount of dumping, filling in 25-50 ft in certain areas.  In September, 1998 Mercy Sacred Heart Village purchased the land to satisfy their conditional use permit to expand their residential apartments and nursing facilities.

South of the property is I-64.  A huge sewer line runs beneath part of the property.  Two blocks away are three heavy industrial businesses.  A block away is an active railroad track (26 trains per day).  The Payne St. residential area has many shotgun houses.

In 2008, the Clifton Community Council approached the property owner, Mercy Sacred Heart Village, asking to use one acre of the vacant land as a community garden, fulfilling one of the goals of their Neighborhood Plan.  The property owner had the following concerns:  legal liability, everyone having the opportunity to use and be involved with the garden, a non-profit group be in charge and maintain the garden.

In the fall of 2008 at a signing ceremony on the one acre lot, the Clifton Community Council entered into a legal agreement with Mercy Sacred Heart Village.  The council established a garden committee.  General liability insurance was obtained.  A written five-year plan was created and approved by the Landmarks Commission.  The garden is designed to be an outdoor classroom.

In 2009, the first 18 cedar raised garden beds were built and installed by Youth Build Louisville and offered to the public.  In 2010, 9 more cedar raised beds were added with funding provided through a $5000 United Parcel Service grant. 

The garden project was so successful during 2009 and kept the Council so busy, it decided to “spin off” the community garden as its own non-profit organization.  In April, 2010, the community garden became “Billy Goat Hill Garden Inc.”, as an independent nonprofit with the Kentucky Secretary of State.  It formed a board of directors and has approved by-laws in preparation for applying for a 501 (c) (3) designation with the Internal Revenue Service. The Clifton Center, located across the street at 2117 Payne Street, serves as the fiscal agent for the garden.

According to The Encyclopedia of Louisville, page 90, the area along 1700-1900 Payne St was named “Billy Goat Hill” to honor the goat farm owned by Ed Whalen, which was situated on the jagged hillside just south of Payne St., a subdivision named Angora Heights was created in the late nineteenth century.  Feeling that the name was too highbrow for their neighborhood, the residents changed the name to Billy Goat Hill.

The purpose of the Billy Goat Hill Community Garden is to build community understanding and support through operating community vegetable and flower gardens and other environmental projects using sustainable practices to improve the environment.  Activities include education and awareness programs, maintaining a variety of garden types, bee hives, a bird sanctuary, water conservation systems, walking paths, recycling, composting, and partnering or forming alliances with other groups to participate in sustainable projects and to improve the quality of life in the area.

The approach of the Billy Goat Hill Community Garden in achieving its purposes has been to encourage and support the involvement of neighbors, partners and volunteers in a variety of projects they propose.  The talents and interests of the gardeners and neighbors have therefore determined the types of activities undertaken. The Billy Goat Hill Community Garden board has also met with 9th District Metro Council Representative Tina Ward-Pugh and pledged support of the District 9 Green Triangle Initiative, on which several gardeners are serving.

Activities undertaken during the garden’s first three years have included:

·         Beehive project, which produced close to 70 pounds of honey and won the 2009 KY State Fair blue ribbon. The Kentuckiana Beekeepers Association served as mentors and donated three beehives.

·         Rainwater-harvesting demonstration project from a house next door to the garden.

·         Composting, mushroom growing and daffodil growing projects conducted in partnership with Nativity Academy science classes.

·         Sunflower and three-sisters projects initiated by neighborhood gardeners

·         Bat houses, birdhouses, butterfly garden, meditation area, wildflower growing area and walking paths completed through volunteer help of Boy Scout Troops 40 and 315 Eagle Projects.

·         Gourd growing and maintenance of the butterfly garden undertaken by the Adult Day-Break program of Mercy Sacred Heart Village.

·         Fall Harvest Festival held each October for the gardeners and residents.

·         Bread baking classes at United Crescent Hill Ministries led by one of the gardeners and benefiting the garden and UCHM.

·         Stone Soup project to cook with and feed neighborhood families using produce from community gardens.

Through the garden’s agreement with Mercy Sacred Heart Village, Billy Goat Hill Community Garden is responsible for maintaining the one-acre of property.  Maintenance includes mowing and trimming the grass around the beds, maintaining the hoop house, providing water to portable tanks provided by D.D. Williamson, and removing any weeds or trash in between the beds and along the sidewalk. Regular work events are scheduled with the gardeners to help with these and other maintenance projects that emerge, such as filling new garden boxes. Beginning in the spring of 2011, all gardeners will be asked to sign an agreement to maintain their individual plots during the growing season and to clean up their garden beds at the end of the growing season.

The garden has partnered with science class students at Nativity Academy at St. Boniface.  The 6th, 7th, and 8th graders are in charge of the compost bins and one of the raised garden areas.  In the spring of 2009, teacher Eric Osborne had his students at the garden for half a day on Mondays and Fridays.  The students received academic instruction and maintained their garden plot while in the garden.  In the fall of 2009, the garden has been part of there after-school program and they created our daffodil growing project.

United Crescent Hill Ministries (UCHM) has partnered with us to provide transportation for the Nativity Academy students and to use their commercial (Health Department Certified) kitchen so the students can learn to cook healthy meals and bake homemade bread.

The Adult Day-Break program of Mercy Sacred Heart Village has partnered with us for their seniors to be active gardeners.  The seniors are in charge of the butterfly garden and participate in other garden projects.  The seniors are in the garden at the same time as the middle school students from Nativity Academy.

Boy Scout Troops 40 and 315 have scouts earning their Eagle Scout rank by doing projects within the garden.  They have created walking paths, the butterfly garden, the meditation sitting area and planted native flowers to stabilize and secure the hillside slope of the house next to the garden.  During the fall of 2010, the scouts created a bird sanctuary at a water detention basin next to the garden.

Youth Build Louisville built and installed our cedar wood raised garden beds.  In 2009 the Clifton Community Council paid $2,000 to purchase the cedar wood for them to build 18 garden beds.  In 2010 United Parcel Service (UPS) provided a $5,000 grant to have them build 9 more cedar raised beds, purchase red cedar for the Boy Scouts to create walking paths and to be used for the community garden projects.