The real “dirt” on Gardens on the Boulevard
By Maureen Austin, Executive Director of CHIRP for Garden Wildlife, Inc.
About 17 years ago I had a vision of downtown Alpine… there were paths meandering parallel with Alpine Boulevard, alongside lush gardens which attracted abundant winged wildlife–hummingbirds, songbirds and butterflies.
Visitors came to town to find relaxation while strolling our streets, shopping and dining at local establishments. Locals also found endless enjoyment in our downtown district. Community pride was bountiful. Businesses prospered.
Fast forward to 2014… “Paths” are sidewalks and “lush” gardens are xeriscapes in keeping with our area’s drought. But the vision for a beautiful Boulevard is still alive–and it is gradually taking form. It’s called “Gardens on the Boulevard.”
In fall of 2012, a small group of Alpine residents joined forces to raise money to launch the Boulevard gardens, and to create beautiful spaces where plots of dirt had been left after the Sunrise Powerlink construction was over.
A fundraiser was held at the Lomax family vineyard in Alpine, and just over $10,000 was raised, with a matching funds donation of $10,000, netting just over $20,000. (The names of every person who contributed to this cause is listed at the end of this article.)
I would like to be very clear on this… Not one cent of money for “Gardens on the Boulevard” was donated or contributed by SDGE, or by the County of San Diego, or by major land owners/developers in Alpine.
It was everyday citizens, small businesses and a few local organizations who pitched in to make the beautification vision a reality.
To date, 7 gardens have been created, and about half of the money raised has been spent. The balance is earmarked for sites which will be transformed over the next several months.
“Gardens on the Boulevard” is a project of CHIRP for Garden Wildlife, Inc., a local non-profit organization focused on creating garden spaces for winged wildlife. CHIRP is best known for presenting the annual “Sage & Songbirds Festival & Garden Tour” each May.
It is CHIRP volunteers who have designed and installed each of the gardens thus far, using the money raised in 2012. Garden maintenance is primarily done by the property owners and/or their agents–along with a “garden angel” who will be named at the end of this article.
Again, to be clear, CHIRP has not allocated one cent of administrative costs for this project, and NO CHIRP person has received any compensation whatsoever for their participation. All plants have been purchased at wholesale prices, and materials have been donated or purchased at the best price possible in order to stretch the available funds. It is CHIRP’s intent to get the absolute MOST out of every dollar contributed, and apply it towards actual beautification of the Boulevard.
These facts are mentioned because over the months there have been many inaccurate and erroneous comments and assumptions made about “Gardens on the Boulevard,” especially in regards to its funding sources and expenditures. (Our books are open to the public.)
Gardens on the Boulevard (GOB) sites completed to date
The first official GOB garden installed was near the center of town, at what was most recently The Biker Shack but still known to Alpine old-timers as “the old bakery”, owned by Susan and Jim Hobbs.
Across the street, at Alpine Rentals, Scott Thomas and his crew put some of their heavy equipment to work to dig holes for CHIRP volunteers who planted there.
The new Goodwill store was given a “green” welcome to town with a GOB garden timed for their grand opening.
And when The Biker Shack moved across the street last month, it too was given a “housewarming” garden by CHIRP.
Alpine Creek Shopping Center, host of the weekly Alpine Certified Farmer’s Market and CHIRP’s Monarch Mania Festival in September, had its back entrance spruced-up with some GOB plants.
The planter box under the sign at the Marketplace at Alpine (the old nursery) was filled with favorite GOB plants.
Towards the east end of town, the Art of Problem Solving’s long parkway strip was given a new look with GOB design and plants.
Although not actually “on” the Boulevard, when a community-wide call for plants was made by an Eagle Scout for his project at Joan MacQueen Middle School, CHIRP’s GOB volunteers pitched in with design ideas and provided over 70 plants so the Scouts were able to have the garden in for opening day of school in 2013.
Installation of gardens will continue until funds are depleted. Next will be a garden along the frontage strip of Alpine Community Center.
Plants for a new garden at Alpine Woman’s Club will also be donated by GOB, once their contracted hardscape is in place. (Hardscape is outside of CHIRP’s purview, but GOB plans and plants are being provided.)
Keep watching…a few more garden spots are also forthcoming!
To follow are the names of those to thank for helping beautify Alpine:
Matt & Jane Duggan
Patrick & Pam Price
Jack Nichols, PH.D and Judy Nichols
Dr. Clinton & Marti Friday
Patricia Cannon & Brent Wolf
Back Country Land Trust
Neville & Christine Connell
Fred & Pat Cimins
Scott Field, Farmers Insurance
Rod & Guille Tuttle
Harry & Lydia Houghton
Chuck & Joann Sinclair
Jim & Susan Hobbs
Ooh La La Salon & Day Spa
Rich & Teri Morgan
Alpine Church of Spiritual Living
and especially Richard & Vanesssa Rusczyk, who generously “matched” the $10,000 raised!
Lisa Lomax, Vanessa Rusczyk, Rod Tuttle, Guille Tuttle, Diana Anderson, Marilyn Fox, and Michael Varbaek, with special thanks to Ed Morrison, the “gardening angel” who regularly walks the Boulevard, doing cleanup, pulling weeds and keeps the gardens looking good!
Alpine Brewery, Alpine Equipment, Alpine Inn Wine & Spirits, Alpine Jewelers, Alpine Waterfeatures, Biker Shack, Roger Brown, Keli Cadenhead, Design for Serenity, Dive Shack, Jim Earp, El Cajon Harley Davidson, Henderson Sculptural Arts, In-N-Out Burger, Janet’s Cafe, Jennifer’s Feed, Nancy Kennedy, Lucy’s Landscaping, Ooh LaLa Salon & Day Spa, Pet Smart, Rachelle Pool Cullum, Provincial Wines, Bob Rhoads, Rock Canyon Vineyard, San Diego Chargers, Sky Hunters, Starbucks, Studio Soledad, Two Sisters’ Cottage, Rod and Guille Tuttle, Viejas Outlets.
For questions or additional information, please contact CHIRP at 619-445-8352 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maureen Austin, Executive Director
CHIRP for Garden Wildlife, Inc.
“…helping to plant spaces which support winged wildlife.”