Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bridgeview Garden grows, community celebrates

About fifty Bayview neighbors and their friends gathered on Saturday April 16th to celebrate progress on the new gathering space and entryway to the Bridgeview Teaching and Learning Garden.

Annette Smith, Quesada Gardens Initiative’s co-founding gardener and the organization’s board of directors Chair Emeritus, began the event with an invocation. She thanked all those who support the Quesada Gardens Initiative, the grassroots group that coordinates what has become a network of gardens, gathering spaces and public art projects in Bayview.

Annette and Jeffrey Betcher, Quesada Gardens Initiative organizer, presented Professor Seth Wachtel, from University of San Francisco, the Karl Paige and Annette Smith Community Leadership Award.

“I feel like I should be giving you an award,” Seth said to the group. “USF students learn about designing public spaces by beginning with the people who live nearby. They just don’t experience that approach anywhere else.”

Seth was the first faculty from the university to make contact with the Quesada Gardens Initiative, through a since-graduated student, Dionisia Montanez, who returned to the project she had worked so hard on in prior years so that she could applaud her former professor. Many current USF students helped with the event, including service-learning student liaison Brandon Oldham who talked about how meaningful their months of service in the community had been.

Joel and Mary McClure, Bridgeview Drive residents who have led the Bridgeview project for many years, and who sit on Quesada Gardens Initiative’s board of directors, talked about how their project got started when they saw what was happening a block away on Quesada and asked neighbors for help.

“Quesada Gardens is our mooring,” Joel said. “It’s been a lot of work to create this garden and gathering space, but these things can’t happen without the support of organized neighbors.”

Ralph Schardt, Executive Director of the Michael Lee Environmental Foundation, the group that footed the largest part of the materials bill for the Bridgeview Garden, spoke at the event.

“The Quesada Gardens Initiative is a good investment,” he said. “Communities have an important role to play in defining their own environments. Groups like this accomplish just that for pennies on the dollar.”

Organizers who contributed to the event include Corine Pettus who made two of her famous pies, sweet potato and buttermilk, Tony Tarket who shared garden education materials, Jacob Watta who promoted the group’s volunteer program, and Tom Galante who organized the food and lemonade tables.

Jim Ansbro, a leader with the Latona Garden group, contributed Easter gifts for young visitors. Irene Molinari and Bob Grover, also from Latona, attended.

Balboa High School student Hean He, who volunteered with the Bridgeview Project many times, passed out brochures. Will Campos, a young photographer in the neighborhood and frequent volunteer on Quesada, took pictures.

Bayview contractor, Vidal Perez, who built the new gathering space with his team, also attended the event.

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