This was a Marina Tree and Garden Club sponsored project that came about with the collaborative dynamism of Grace Silva-Santella, myself and a lot of community volunteers. Grace and I worked to design, budget and project manage the installation of this public space next to the Marina Chamber of Commerce on Hillcrest Avenue. What follows is the April 15, 2017 dedication speech and story of how the garden came into being.
Are any of you familiar with the children’s book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie? Then you know that the next line is “He is going to want a glass of milk.” This garden really is that story. It all began when Candy Owen-Meyers planted the seed to Mike Owen, that it would be a fine gesture to plant an oak tree in memory of former city council member Ken Gray. With the city’s blessing, the tree was purchased and planted by the club in the bare patch next to the Council Chambers. But the tree looked lonely. We discussed adding a nice durable bench, so people could sit under the tree to admire it. Under Mike’s lead, an unexpected outpouring of community donations made purchasing the bench a swift reality.
But, clearly, the memorial bench could not just sit in the dirt under the tree. With the playground across the street under renovation, the city offered to add a concrete pad for the bench if the club would map out the size and location desired. Not only did Ed Meachum and the public works crew honor our vision—they exceeded expectations and made a beautiful colored pad for the bench.
After the concrete was poured, it became incredibly obvious that this space needed more than a tree, a bench and some tinted concrete. It was an underwhelming public space that never got a second glance. The thought blossomed – Why not build a garden that invited lingering and conversation outside of council chambers? A green space where one could enjoy Ken’s bench and the tree? A welcoming respite near community services and the neighborhood playground. Why not dream big and feature beautiful low care California plants that would provide habitat for birds and pollinators too? Then we heard about a grant through the Monterey Peninsula Regional Parks District program (Open Space and Coastal Preservation Grant Program). So fortified with a plan, a budget, a well researched plant list and a proposal, Grace and I miraculously obtained a grant from the MPRPD.
With funds secured, the garden began to organically take shape with the steady help of many volunteers. Three large rocks were selected for seating around the bench and to encourage gathering. Grace and I imagined the delight of small children jumping on those smooth rocks while parents rested on the bench. The curve of the moss rock wall gracefully defined new planting levels. A mound was added for contour and interest with the extra soil on the site. Paver stones were laid to connect the sidewalk to the bench area and welcome entrance into the garden. Sheet mulching, wood chipping and planting soon followed. On a very cold and long Saturday in February, our dedicated volunteers saw the garden come to life. Strong hands gathered to carefully assemble the drip system to each and every new plant. Public Works installed programable irrigation valves to provide reliable, measured water for the new garden.
This garden was built by the power of community. I want to thank the Monterey Peninsula Regional Parks District for providing the milk to go along with the cookie. Thanks to Layne Long for his enthusiastic support of this project from the very beginning. Special recognition goes out to Ed Meachum and the public Works crews who tolerated and satisfied our many demands with good cheer and can-do attitude. Thanks go out to the Monterey Regional Waste Management District for donating an enormous mound of compost, and, to Smith Tree Service for it’s wood chips. Thank you’s go to all of the generous donors that contributed to the memorial bench. And finally to all of the amazing community volunteers – Thank you for your spirit, enthusiasm and hard work. Cookies, anyone?