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Willowgate gardeners push for new community gardens in Mountain View

A group of local gardeners is beginning a serious push to bring more community gardens to the city, including one in a new 1-acre park at 771 North Rengstorff Ave.

"Studies have shown that with a community garden in a neighborhood that crime goes down, neighborhood pride goes up, people come together and talk about things of community interest. And they share," said resident Kieran Gonsalves, one of the gardeners behind the effort.

The group has started an online petition -- which closes Jan. 14 -- and plans to present it to the city's Parks and Recreation Commission on Jan. 15. Gonsalves, along with residents Judy Levy and Marcy Fein, have been working with the city to improve operations of the Willowgate community garden on Andsbury Avenue, where they each hold one of 84 garden plots available to residents. There's a long waiting list for a garden plot -- the city reports that the wait can take as long as five years.

The experience of planting, caring for and harvesting from a garden in Mountain View has been limited to to those who've waited for a community plot or have a yard of their own. Whether that will change with the creation of a shared garden, where anyone can pitch in and be involved, remains to be seen.

Another group of residents lead by Kavita Dave-Coombe and others has called for such a shared garden, organized much like a "demonstration farm," such as Full Circle Farm in Sunnyvale or Veggielution in San Jose, both of which have nonprofit organizations at the helm.

"I'm not sure any one model is without its problems," Gonsalves said of having plots versus a shared garden. "Any garden would be a good idea."

Over 172 people had signed the petition as of Jan. 7, which doesn't call for a specific type of garden. It calls for the city "to create additional community gardens as a matter of priority, including using the land at 771 Rengstorff Ave."

Gonsalves said that his experience at Willowgate has been a positive one. "When I had to wait (for a plot), it made it that much more valuable. You don't take it for granted."

"I've gotten to know people of different nationalities, people from the Ukraine and France," Gonsalves said. "My children eat much more healthy. Sometimes they eat right on the plot without having to take it home and cook it. A lot of people with children, pregnant mothers or grandparents, walk through the garden and appreciate it. I believe it's really a community asset."

In the last four years, Gonsalves said Willowgate gardeners have donated 2,800 pounds of food to the Community Services Agency in Mountain View, which has a food pantry for the poorest residents in Mountain View. The group even includes recipes to go with the produce, translated into Spanish and Russian.

Gonsalves believes that community gardens also raise property values and are embraced by their neighborhoods. At Willowgate, neighbors are invited to regular "seed exchanges" and potluck dinners attended by as many as 80 people.

For 771 North Rengstorff, a 1.2-acre property sold to the city last year by longtime resident Frances Stieper, he added that it may not "make sense to hack down fruit trees" that now exist on the site "and plant tomatoes. That may not be the best use of the land."

"We want to promote the idea of a community garden for 771 North Rengstorff," Gonsalves said. "We really want to get people out to talk about it and come up with whatever they feel is right for its use and find the best model that fits it."

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Yes
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 10, 2014 at 11:29 am

The waiting list for commnity gardens (over 100) is longer than the number of garden plots the city has (84). The list will just get longer with all this high density housing with no yards.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Voting Citizen
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 10, 2014 at 2:22 pm

There is no need to "hack down fruit trees" in a community garden. If they are healthy, keeping them in place is of great benefit to a garden.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 11, 2014 at 6:54 am

This sounds like a land grab by a limited number of people who want their own vegetable garden. Why not leave all the fruit tress and turn it in a park for every one? The are needs a park.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rodger
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jan 13, 2014 at 6:57 pm

I don't think the Lady that sold the land for the new park had garden plots in mind. I for sure do not want this land turned into garden plots. If the city wants to start something like this it's my hope they will use the vast amount of land inside the gate of shoreline park. Just inside the gate and to the east side of the road is a large amount of land not being used for much other than a place to put excess dirt.

I think garden plots for the few are not fair for everyone and usually turn out to be ugly for a good part of the year.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jay Park
a resident of Jackson Park
on Jan 14, 2014 at 7:08 pm

I will point out what several commenters have apparently missed.

- The proposal does not call for a complete conversion of the property to be converted to individual garden lots; it could be a combination of community gardens *PLUS* a public park.
- The garden itself does not have to be individual lots. A community plot could be established, with other individual lots added.
- The trees could be retained within some or even all parts of the property. The garden plots could be in an area with fewer fruit trees, etc.
- The Willowgate gardens contribute produce to the Community Service Agency.

No one is stating that the property needs to be ALL PARK, or ALL INDIVIDUAL GARDEN PLOTS, or ALL this or that.

I will point out that this property is equidistant from Thaddeus Park and Sierra Vista Park, both about 2 blocks away.


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