Petitioning to plant flowers


The north entrance to the Dupont Circle Metro station with the Morning Glories, Cardinal Flowers and Cypress Vines that Henry Docter planted. (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

Metro threatened to arrest or fine “garden artist” Henry Docter if he continues tending flowers he planted at the Dupont Circle station. But on this issue — as on many others — locals seem to side against Metro. His petition to keep planting has collected more than 1,700 signatures in the past week, and tweets on the scuffle tend to sound like these:

As The Post’s Robert McCartney laid out yesterday, Docter has a long history of horticultural activism. His other projects include planting “bulbs, not bombs” at the Israeli Embassy and seeding more than 20,000 morning glories in Bangalore, India. And in October, he started planting flowers along the steep, cobblestoned face of the Dupont station’s north entrance, an effort to clean up what he calls “the previously abandoned and filthy terraced garden squares … [that] did not appear to be high on [Metro’s] list of priorities.”

After Docter notified Metro that the flowers were about to bloom, they sent him a harshly worded cease-and-desist. (Scaling the steep incline, they argue, is a serious safety hazard to Docter and passersby. In fact, a 21-year-old California man was seriously injured when he fell near the Dupont escalators last week.) Docter followed with an impassioned account on his own site, letmyflowersgrow.com, a petition on Change.org and a disgruntled post on the Cleveland Park e-mail discussion.

Metro spokesman Dan Stessel told  McCartney that the transit agency might have gone overboard with the cease and desist” letter.“The word ‘imprisonment’ is one we probably would have omitted had it originated in our general counsel’s office,” Stessel said.

That brings us to the current public opinion war online.

“What harm is the gentleman doing,” reads the top comment on Docter’s petition. “He is performing a free public service that helps to beautify the area. It is not costing Metro a dime. Let him water the flowers.”

“I have been thanking Metro silently for finally attending to the sad state of the Dupont Circle Metro — how lovely it has been to watch the flowers grow and the trash subside,” reads another. “Now I see it is not Metro that has made this change, but Henry Doctor [sic].”

Docter’s is not, unsurprisingly, the first anti-WMATA petition to appear on Change.org. In the past year, Metro riders have also used the site to demand changes to the system’s hiring policies, an end to Rush Plus service and lower fare prices — with limited success. Rush Plus remains in force and Metro fares still jumped last June. But as one petitioner rejoiced in May 2012, WMATA did move a shuttle bus stop at the Shady Grove Metro under pressure from the community.

Whether Docter’s petition will have that effect is anyone’s guess. But the Shady Grove petition had only 88 signers — and Docter’s is nearing his goal of 2,500.

“Let the community be part of the metro system and help where they can,” advised one District resident. “After all, you’re always telling us, if you see something, say something.’”

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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