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Community Garden in Palm Springs Provides Fresh Food and Community Space

Case Story

Community: Palm Springs

Population: 44,552

Summary

With a vision for healthy ecosystems and urban sustainability, the City of Palm Springs unveiled a popular and successful community garden on Earth Day 2012. The garden features planting beds for individuals or groups to rent and grow food or other plants. The garden has 32 plots for individual gardeners and also hosts more formal environmental and experiential learning programs administered by community groups.  There is a community meeting space, an orchard and a constructed shade structure at the garden to facilitate meetings and socialization. Located within a community park and adjacent to a community center, the community garden allows the city’s Community Services program to coordinate their activities and events with the garden space.

Healthy Neighborhoods Connection

Community gardens provide access to fresh produce and plants and contribute to neighborhood improvement, a stronger sense of community and connection to the environment.

Program Highlights

  • 32 garden beds available for rental
  • Space for meetings, events and community building
  • Experiential education offered by local community groups
  • Ideal location in park next to community center allows for coordinating community center events and programs with the garden

Lessons Learned

  • Even if you think your budget is inadequate for your project, look for donations and ways to cut costs. They are out there and it is possible.
  • Make sure you recognize everyone who contributed. Thank donors and show them your appreciation.
  • Celebrate community spaces where people feel ownership and a sense of neighborhood connection.
  • Be open to different aesthetic styles.  With enough input and dialog you can accomplish your goals of getting a well done project.
  • Be patient and encourage residents to be patient as well.
  • Transparency and good public communication can win community support.

The Rest of the Story…

The Palm Springs community garden project came about through the city council and mayor’s sustainability vision for the city. They wanted to focus on healthy ecosystems and sustainable urban development. The project was initiated by the Palm Springs Sustainability Commission and the City of Palm Springs’ Green Team. The Sustainability Commission is an 11 member group that gives the city council recommendations based on community feedback. The Green Team is city staff, throughout diverse departments, dedicated to promoting sustainability goals.  The mayor of Palm Springs, who has shown enthusiasm towards health and reducing childhood obesity, helped set the stage for the project through his leadership.

Palm Springs broke ground on its community garden on Earth Day 2011 after soliciting public input on the design of the garden.  The city-owned site was formerly vacant and given to vagrancy and trash dumping.  The garden has 32 beds, 30 of which can be used by disabled and handicapped residents. There is also an orchard, a community meeting space and a shade structure donated by Modernism Week, a local volunteer organization dedicated to promoting and maintaining modern architecture and design in Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley. The project has been popular with residents –the 32 planting beds are currently filled, and there is a waiting list for renter turnover.

The garden is in Demuth Park next to a community center. This location is ideal because it allows the community center to align programs and activities with the garden. It is also in a central location for other green amenities in Palm Springs – such as the household hazardous waste drop, farmer’s market, desert water agency, and other green amenities and community services. 

One of the biggest challenges to the project was securing the funding to build the garden.  The project was funded through a combination of city Sustainability Commission funds, funds from Veolia Water, operator of Palm Springs’ Waste Water Treatment Plant, and community donations.  The city solicited community input with garden design and implementation which allowed for a high degree of community participation and public recognition for those who donated money or time.

Another ongoing challenge is maintenance including irrigation, garden bed upkeep and managing pests. The city has handled this challenge by contracting annually with a landscaping firm to maintain the space and recruiting a liaison within the community center to help with routine questions and ongoing needs.

In the future, the city would like to expand the current site and add more sites at other community centers throughout the city. City staff is also trying to increase edible landscaping throughout the city, and is starting a program to encourage residents to plant edibles on their own property. The community garden is a popular project that has showcased Palm Springs dedication towards sustainability, created a true community space for residents and increased a culture of healthy living and growing your own food.

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