For hipsters and seniors alike, the urban lifestyle has much to offer: low maintenance residences, easy access to public transportation, and a plethora of shopping, dining and entertainment options.
The downside for anyone with a green thumb is that, with urban real estate at a premium, there is little space, aside from balconies and rooftops, for actual gardening. It was this dilemma that prompted retired kindergarten teacher Beth Mercurio, back in 1992, to approach the City of Escondido about transforming a vacant strip of city-owned land along the west side of Centre City Parkway (between El Norte Parkway and Mission)into a community garden.
“I was still teaching at the time and had been made aware of other community garden projects in San Diego,” Mercurio recalls. “So I figured something similar would be beneficial to the residents of downtown Escondido. The City helped us find a spot and, after two years of red tape, the Escondido Community Garden was born.”
To get the program started, Mercurio was fortunate enough to enlist the help of several master gardeners through a volunteer program run by the University of California. “They are still very active with the garden to this day,” she adds.
The propertyis divided into individual plots of approximately 4’x20’, which rent for $36 per year including water-faucet access and waste removal service. A senior garden area for ages 55 and older is located immediately south, where plots rent for $20 per year. There is also a shared community area complete with covered cabana sitting, picnic tables, night lighting, bathrooms and a tool shed built as an Eagle Scout project.
“The idea was to include as much of the community as possible,” Mercurio explains. “We have all shapes and sizes out there gardening—families, seniors, and folks from United Cerebral Palsy, Easter Seals,Good Will— as well as seven different languages spoken.” For those with special needs, the garden offers raised beds at wheelchair height. “It took years to get it totally going, but I think now we have achieved our goal.”
For information, contact:
Escondido Community Garden
A brief history of community gardens in the US
For over a century, community gardens have sought to promote healthy communities and better nutrition in our urban areas, while contributing to the preservation of open, sustainable spaces. A few highlights:
• 1890 – Social and educational reformers, as well as those involved in civic beautification,established the first community gardens in Detroit.
• 1918 – During World War I, the government promoted community gardens to supplement the domestic food supply.
• 1930 – During the Great Depression, community gardens provided a means for the unemployed to grow their own food.
• 1940 – The Victory Garden campaign during World War II encouraged people to grow food for personal consumption, recreation and to improve morale.
• 1970 – The rebirth of community gardening in the 1970s was a response to urban abandonment, rising inflation, environmental concerns and a desire to build neighborly connections. Source: University of Missouri Extension