Neighbors unite to beautify Seaside’s Martin Park.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
It’s an overcast, blustery Saturday, but Tracy Parker and Jimmy White are intent on getting a sumac sapling into the ground.
Around them, about a dozen other neighbors are equally focused on their planting tasks in Seaside’s Martin Park. It’s a round cross-section of diversity, with ages spanning SpongeBob to AARP, skin tones ranging ripe acorn to jasmine flower, and conversations looping in English and Spanish.
This is the city’s first crack at a program called Volunteers Improving our Parks. “The city doesn’t have money to do it,” White says, “so it’s up to the people to take care of their neighborhood.”
The effort is strictly grassroots, sprouting from the flyers organizer Norman Yassany posted in March. At the time, the park’s grass was parched and brown; the lights didn’t work; drug paraphernalia littered the ground.
“It was being used and abused by people, especially at nighttime,” he says. Three months in, the effort has almost 60 volunteers, half of them fairly regular, and the park is looking friendly.
“It’s beginning to be a big improvement,” says volunteer Carole Juco.
“It’s a good example for the city of Seaside,” adds her husband, Bing. “People stick together.”
Ingrid Aquino, who moved onto Lowell Street eight months ago, says she’s gotten to know her neighbors at the weekly work sessions. “I live right there, so I have no choice,” she jokes, pointing across the street.
A few paces away, Blanca Sarabia and Jose Barragan chat in Spanish. “I don’t come to this park often, but I want it to look nice for the people who use it,” Sarabia says. Her little son Ulisis wheels around on a scooter with a gaptoothed grin, while her teenage daughter Katia and a friend kneel over a planting.
The volunteers have tilled compost into the garden area, installed beds of drought-resistant flowers and planted an array of young trees. Aquino painted over the graffiti, Parker designed an arroyo sequito, and Barragan helped install the drip irrigation system.
The volunteers have ponied up some of their own money for the effort, but most of the materials are donated. The city of Monterey mocked up a park sign, Yassany says, and the Seaside Parks Department painted the tall lamps that now shine bright through the night.
Seaside Garden Center, Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District, Kelley- Moore Paint Company and Martin’s Irrigation Supply also pitched in. With the city short on cash, volunteer efforts like this one may be Seaside’s best hope for beautification. The Durant- Farallones Neighborhood Association has done native planting in Farallones Park, and the Seaside Green Team gardens monthly at Laguna Grande Park. The Martin Park volunteers, meanwhile, are hoping to fundraise enough to build a picnic table. Maybe they’ll even buy a barbecue, Parker says excitedly.
And hire a big band, Sarabia adds, prompting a victorious grin from Barragan: “For the inauguration!”
A community yard sale benefits Martin Park Saturday, June 27, 9am-1pm, at Martin Park on Luxton Street, Seaside.