San Rafael’s culturally diverse Canal neighborhood is well known for its bustling community centers and family owned businesses. But until now, the 5,000 residents who live here have lacked direct access to garden harvested produce.
Earlier this month, residents gathered to celebrate the ground-breaking of the Canal community garden.
“ I have lived in the Canal for 21 years and in that time we have had one community garden that got displaced. I am really excited for the new garden!” said Yi, an elderly Vietnamese lady.
Eight years ago, a smaller community garden was destroyed when the Pickle-Weed Community Center expanded. Since then, Canal residents have lobbied the city to find a new location for a garden, an effort that came together when the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit whose objective is to conserve land for public use, got involved.
“It’s very important for people who don’t have access to nature to get it, so we tend to work in neighborhoods where people don’t have alternatives,” said Trust for Public Land’s (TPL) president, Will Rogers. “Everybody loves gardening and everybody likes to get their hands in the dirt.”
The city of San Rafael donated an acre lot on the corner of Bellam Boulevard and Windward Way. Once a location was found TPL teamed up with the Canal community to design their future garden.
Sustained fundraising efforts have paid off. The new garden will feature a large greenhouse, an outdoor education center, a tool shed, a trellis, potting tables, compost bins, bike racks, native perimeter plantings and 92 garden beds.
The garden will also be wheelchair accessible and highlight art by the community.The garden is open to the entire city of San Rafael, but Canal residents will have priority access. A full garden bed will cost $60 dollars for the entire year and a half plot will cost $30.
Planting Justice, an NGO that focuses on making gardening available to urban residents in the Bay Area, will construct the garden beds and teach residents how to build them as well. Organic gardening classes will be taught by Canal Alliance a dedicated group that has strived to build a healthier Canal community for 30 years. The garden is scheduled to be finished by mid November.