Friday, April 1, 2005 Filed in: In the News
by Chris Gullick
Cynthia Wright's vision is bearing fruit.
Fruit trees were planted - 50 of them - with the help of a traveling group of environmental advocates and students from Blue Oak Charter School, to initiate the new Chico Community Environmental Garden.
The two-acre garden sits on Silver Dollar Way, across the street from the looming Costco building and beside the California Water Co. office, in some ways an odd spot for a garden.
But Thursday the work started, the beginnings of a community resource to teach and benefit people who may not have access to healthy foods or a place to grow foods themselves.
A colorful, hand-painted vegetable-oil-burning bus with 20 workers arrived at the site, bringing 50 fruit trees donated by an organic nursery in Southern California. The group, Common Vision, was in Chico on its Fruit Tree Tour, an eight-week tour throughout California, planting at least 1,000 trees at urban schools and community centers.
Before coming to Chico, they planted 75 trees at two East Los Angeles schools and their next stop will be Novato.
Second- and third-graders from the charter school participated, learning to drum earth rhythms, digging holes and planting trees. Common Vision performed twice during the day, drumming and dancing in a West African tradition, to celebrate the founding of the garden.
When Wright, founder of the Chico garden, finished her degree at Chico State University, she had a vision of satisfying work that would still allow her to care for her blended family and foster children.
She also had a vision for a place where people in the community can work in the soil and learn about the environment.
Wright's desire to teach children the value of growing gardens and Common Vision's quest to spread environmental education in California meshed perfectly.
A garden in the midst of industry, where people could get away from that industry and touch the soil, appealed to her.
Her plan for the garden is still mostly an internal vision, with work on it just beginning. She has a long list of improvements she wants to accomplish at the site, such as a greenhouse, a play area and a shelter for conducting classes.
Wright explained that the garden space will be divided into 100-square-foot plots and rented to organizations for about $50 a year.
She said the people likely to use the spaces would be foster-care agencies, shelter members, school organizations and similar groups. The small rental fee will cover liability insurance and the portable toilet on the property.
The placement of the garden was first suggested to Wright by Tammy Ritter, the director of the Chico Community Shelter, which is next door. When Wright approached the water company, which owns the parcel, it was agreeable, leasing the property to Wright's organization for the least legally possible amount.
The property is fenced and has water and a water meter, but Wright said she hasn't seen a water bill yet.