Work still needed for community garden

While Vic was in Morro Bay with one of his birding classes last weekend, I worked on plans for the new Huntington Beach Community Garden. Sorry, Fountain Valley, membership is limited to residents of Huntington Beach. The garden group expects to be able to set foot on site this month at the Southern California Edison property at the end of Atlanta Avenue.

I attended both the fundraising and operations committee meetings this past week. The air in those meeting rooms was positively charged with excitement, as after a year and a half of hard work, the group is finally going to get its garden space.

Dave Dominguez and Jim Engle in Community Services have worked just as hard to get agreements hammered together to make a community garden a reality. And City Councilman Devin Dwyer has pushed hard to make it happen. But a lot of hard work remains. It's going to take money to turn the land under the power lines into a functional garden, and it's going to take a lot more hard work to implement the plans for 84 individual/family garden plots on this property.

One of the challenges the group faces is that part of the land has been covered with gravel and compacted by heavy equipment. Southern California Edison mowed down the weeds recently, and we can see the nice flat expanse that awaits us. But this isn't pristine farmland. The property has seen some hard use, and weeds have grown there for decades. It's nice to know that the hard clay will grow something.

First, the group must clear the property of weeds and gravel. That is going to require the use of a 40-horsepower tractor with a scraper and scoop. Rental is $400 a day, but the good news is that the group has a qualified volunteer operator. Before the plots can be laid out, the edges of this one-acre property will need to be hand-cleared, and that's a place where the members of the garden club and interested members of the public can pitch in. Then the group will test the soil for heavy metals and other potential toxins. That's another expense.

Most of the property is already fenced, but an additional $6,900 to $9,000 of fencing will be required to complete the job. The plots will be laid out and labeled with markers, another expense. Then comes the big job, putting in a backflow valve that costs about $3,000 and installing irrigation lines and hose bibs. Landscape architect Guy Stivers is working on an irrigation plan for the group, and until that is completed, the expense of putting in the irrigation lines remains a black box.

The group plans to make several of the plots handicapped accessible with beds raised so that someone in a wheelchair can work them. The pathway to and around those beds will be brick set on sand. And that's where one of their main fundraising plans lies. The garden group is selling memorial bricks for $100 for a four-by-eight-inch brick and $250 for an eight-by-eight-inch brick. I bought the first one as a memorial to our son Bob, who died five years ago. The bricks will be engraved with a laser with up to three lines of lettering, up to 20 characters (including spaces and punctuation) per line. I believe that the larger bricks will accommodate a corporate logo.

The group needs to sell 100 bricks before placing the order. I'm sure that the bricks will sell quickly, as they don't even have their order forms finalized and yet they've already sold a half dozen bricks. To buy a brick, send a donation of $100 or $250 with the check made out to the Huntington Beach Community Garden, and mail it to the HB Community Garden, P.O. Box 5891, Huntington Beach, CA 92615. Be sure to include your contact information, including email address, and the lettering that you want on the brick.

If you want to reserve a garden plot, you will first need to join the garden group, which costs $10. Membership in the group does not guarantee a plot, but is a necessary first step. However, plots are going fast and only a few remain. To join, download an application from their website at http://www.huntingtonbeachcommunitygarden.com/ and send a check for $10 to the above post office box. Plot lease fees will be an additional $100 a year, which will include use of community tools, water and insurance.

And that brings me to yet another category of expenses. The group needs liability insurance, which will probably run another $1,000. They plan to have a sea-to-land storage container in which to store the tools and wheelbarrows. They plan to provide shovels, hoes, rakes, wheelbarrows, hoses, etc. More expense.

The pathways between plots will be covered with weed-blocking cloth, secured with landscape staples and covered with wood chips or trail mulch. This sort of thing is perfect for Eagle Scout projects and may be the only way it happens. Until then, the pathways will be packed clay, which will turn to mud when it rains. Scouts who are planning projects soon should stand by for further details. As soon as the irrigation lines are in, work on the trails can start. But work on the irrigation lines can't begin until the group has enough money to pay for the backflow valve, pipes, connectors, hose bibs and ditch witch rental.

It all hinges on money, doesn't it? That's why I'm asking the community to pitch in and make stone soup. You know that old story, don't you? Back in the day, a European soldier comes home from the war. It doesn't matter which war, there's always a war. He asks the people in a village for food, but they are poor and hungry themselves. They say that they have no food. So the soldier offers to make stone soup and feed the entire village. Someone brings a big kettle of water for him. He puts in a fist-sized stone and sets the kettle to boil over a fire.

The villagers gather around, fascinated. The soldier tells them that the stone soup will take some time, but that it will be delicious. But, oh how much better it would be if someone had an onion. Someone brings an onion. He adds the onion to the soup, then remarks how much better it would be if someone had a couple of carrots. You get the idea. People bring what they have, a cabbage here, a turnip there, and a beef shank too. And after a couple of hours, the soup is finished and the whole village feasts. The villagers declare that the stone soup is the best soup they've ever had.

And that's what we need our community to do now. Make stone soup. If you have time, money or materials that you can offer to make a community garden a reality, the garden group needs to hear from you. The group is a 501(c)3 organization, so donations are tax-deductible.

You can contact David Baronfeld at davidbaronfeld@yahoo.com or Annette Parsons at AKPjr@socal.rr.com or (714) 317-5921 for more information. Meanwhile, please send in a donation to buy a brick or at least join the group at the $10 level. We need all of you to make this garden a reality.

VIC LEIPZIG and LOU MURRAY are Huntington Beach residents and environmentalists. They can be reached at vicleipzig@aol.com.

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