A new feature of the city of Santa Clara: a neighborhood park, complete with a much anticipated community garden. Yes, believe it or not this is the very first Santa Clara community garden, which is to say the first officially sanctioned garden within the city of Santa Clara.
Designed specifically with resident gardeners in mind, the garden area encompasses a wedge shaped half acre portion of the almost two and a half acre parcel of land located on the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail, at the southwest corner of San Tomas Expressway and Monroe Avenue (what area residents had gotten used to thinking of as the Halloween pumpkin / Christmas tree lot). Needless to say, this garden has been a long time in the making and the local gardening community is admittedly excited about its arrival.
Formally known as the Montague Park Rehabilitation Project (or the even more descriptive San Tomas and Monroe Neighborhood Park and Community Garden), the new facility opened right on schedule, as it was slated to open sometime around labor day 2018. The new park has a number of great features, including a playground, barbecue and picnic areas, and an off-leash dog run. But for those of us who enjoy digging in the dirt, the most important feature of the project are those raised growing beds (the heart of any community garden), the outdoor classroom, and the pollinator garden. As Mayor Lisa Gillmor stated during the 2017 groundbreaking ceremony, “It’s particularly exciting to have the first city owned and operated one-half acre community garden to offer our residents. It’s been a long time coming, and I have no doubt it will quickly become a favorite place to visit when it opens next year.”
James Teixeira, Director of Santa Clara’s Parks and Recreation Department, offered a few comments about the educational and community benefits of what’s been created, saying “The goals of the outdoor classroom and community garden are to educate the community about the natural world and their place in it, from nature, plant and animal habitats, to food sources and the links of farm and environment to kitchen table. Community gardening is a recreational program in and of itself. This garden is for people who like or want to learn about gardening but don’t have the space to garden. For example, the neighborhood to the northeast of this location is high density apartments and the community garden will give those living nearby a space and chance to learn the art and science of gardening. They’ll learn about the microbes and nutrients in the soil. They’ll grow their food organically, and cook and eat or share it. They’ll also learn about sustainability, how to live in a changing climate and world, how to keep our environment as clean and green as it can be. Classes offered here will include composting and seed germination. We’ll also have bee hives and a diversity of flowering plants to learn about pollinators and to increase the yield of the fruiting plants.”
A brief recap of some of the milestones and highlights which took place during the creation of the Santa Clara community garden.
- Early 2000, the Open Space Authority allocates $55,000 to the City of Santa Clara for phase one of the San Tomas Aquino/Saratoga Creek Trail, by way of its 20% Funding Program. The 7.6 mile trail will provide hiking, jogging and cycling opportunities to area residents.
- Mid 2004, the City of Santa Clara acquires property at the corner of San Tomas Expressway and Monroe. The deed restricts use to either public open space or parks and recreation (trail, parking, restrooms, environmental education, domestic & wildlife activities, picnic area, F&B concessions).
- September 2013, the City Council announces a goal to obtain monies for enhanced community sports and recreational facilities.
- Mid 2014, the City Council adopts a parkland dedication ordinance.
- November 2014, voters approve Measure Q, a funding measure that generates approximately $7.9 million per year for “open space” protection in the cities of Campbell, Milpitas, Morgan Hill, San Jose, and Santa Clara.
- Late 2014, three general conceptual layouts are put forward for consideration, known as concept options A, B, and C.
- February 2015, the City Council selects “Concept C” for ongoing development.
- November 2015, planning engineering and design efforts are approved. Gates and Associates is retained to prepare design plans.
- April 2016, formation of Park and Recreation Commission and beginning of initial environmental study (MND).
- October 2016, the City Council allocates project funds in the amount of $3.19 million (City CIP Budget #3184), revenues taken from the Mitigation Fee Act.
- Early 2017, pathway safety lighting is installed.
- April 2017, Request for Proposal is issued.
- May 2017, closing of proposal acceptance.
- June 2017, announcement of choice of winning proposal and consideration of final contract writeup.
- September 21, 2017, the official groundbreaking event for park construction.
- Late 2017, community review meetings and discussions are held as excitement grows.
- July 2018, final touches are put in place as construction wraps up.
- Late 2018, the new Santa Clara community garden opens to gardeners and general public enjoyment.
With the garden now fully up and running, gardeners are invited to apply for a garden bed. Beds come in two general flavors: individual and group. Note that Santa Clara residents living within a half mile of the garden are given priority for a plot, as do those who receive CalFresh benefits, those who are Senior Citizens, and those who have young children. Also be aware that with a wait list containing over sixty names, plots will be assigned to a gardener for a maximum of three years; after each three year stint, new gardeners will be invited to take over individual plots.
Students interested in learning about gardening are encouraged to become involved. Youngsters are invited to call the Youth Activity Center at 408.615.3760 and ask to join the Garden Club.