Gardening for the Masses

gardeningBy Camas Frank

A new community garden project is set to get planting near the Laguna Lake Municipal Golf Course in San Luis Obispo.
Set on a small slice of City-owned property, the design is the first to take advantage of “purple pipes” installed to carry reclaimed water from the wastewater treatment plant.
That’s a big deal for Victoria Carranza, who has worked on the project as a fellow with the non-profit One Cool Earth, designing community gardens and environmental education programs through SLO County.
“The big difference for this garden is use of the purple pipes,” she said. “We will have reclaimed water to help fight the drought.” She explained that the State of California has recommended that private gardens and cities find ways to follow suit the way big agriculture has in the Central Valley.
The City currently has waiting lists for its four existing community gardens but nothing is available in the neighborhood near the golf course.
“We selected the site based on the population density in the area, access to restrooms, and availability of the water supply,” said Recreation Supervisor, Dave Setterlund, with the City’s Parks and Recreation Department. “I really have to commend One Cool Earth and the Kiwanis Club for their work. They’ve really worked with the City and neighbors to make it a win-win for everyone involved.”
Approval for the project came at the June 2 City Council meeting. Designs and administrative details of how the funding and gifting back of the project to the City once completed were approved by unanimous vote of the Council.
Never-the-less two neighbors of the project site did come forward to express opposition to the close proximity of garden plots to their condominiums.
“It was a little heartbreaking at first to hear that there was any opposition,” Carranza said, “but we’ve been working with them as much as possible. We changed the designs to give them more of a buffer zone.”
Unlike other development projects where neighbors have turned up to meetings claiming that they were unaware until the last minute, workers at the non-profit and volunteers from the Kiwanis Club personally canvased the near by residents with 300 hand-delivered flyers and held two, well-attended meetings at the golf course. “An overwhelming number of people were really supportive and some of the people that live in the mobile home park nearby were really excited to get a garden plot,” said Carranza.
Aside from the water source, other features differentiating this garden from others include drought tolerant trees and other landscaping and multiple plots designed to be accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Setterlund noted that Laguna Middle School has expressed interest in organizing an educational program with a plot and some residents in the neighborhood have already contacted him about getting on any future waiting list for a spot.
Details of the project’s final funding still need to be worked out, but construction is set to begin as soon as possible afterwards, Carranza added. “We and the Kiwanis are dedicated to making this a community resource and benefit for everyone.”