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community connections
A Community Blossoms
With Greenway Gardens
Much of Richmond, Calif.—just across
the bay from San Francisco—is an eco-
nomically depressed area, crisscrossed
with railroad tracks and industrial zones.
Yet a fresh sense of community pride
and activity has bloomed here in the last
few years.
Right in the heart of this dense urban
core, orchards of trees heavy with fruit,
bushes loaded with plump berries, and
rows upon rows of broccoli, onions, corn
and other vegetables are now thriving.
And the food from these gardens is freely
available to anyone, anytime.
Because it’s open, people really
pick it,” says Doria Robinson, executive
director of Urban Tilth, a local nonprofit
that promotes community agriculture.
We rarely have excess.”
The idea for such an oasis took hold
several years ago and shaped the devel-
opment of the Richmond Greenway,
a nearly three-mile rail-trail that runs
along the south end of the city’s Iron
Triangle neighborhood, named for the
railroads that frame it. Part of the vision
for the trail, which opened in 2007,
included urban gardens along the corri-
dor—a literal green way.
Since then, the trailside gardens have
been a boon to a community where
fresh, healthy food is so hard to come by
that it’s been deemed a “food desert” by
the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
There are not enough grocery stores
or fresh produce for the population,”
says Gretchen Borg, an English teacher
at the city’s Gompers Continuation
High School.
In 2010, Borg developed Gompers
Guerrilla Garden, where her students
gain hands-on learning in nutrition,
agriculture and sustainability as part of
an urban ecology class. “The high school
is a continuation school, so it’s for
kids with behavioral issues,” says Borg.
Some got kicked out of other schools,
or have children of their own, or have
other things in their lives that make it
hard to come to school. When we have a
crop, and they see people in the garden
picking, they get excited. They think,
We did this!’”
Through the Urban Tilth garden
adjacent to Lincoln Elementary School,
younger students can also tend to plants
and learn about agriculture in an after-
school program or activities during recess.
There are even opportunities for the kids
to try cooking with the fresh produce.
Many don’t even recognize the foods
that are growing,” says Robinson. “I’ll
point to broccoli and they’ll say, ‘What’s
that?’ It’s pretty phenomenal. I took
one kid] on a camping trip and finally
got him to eat a piece of bell pepper, and
he said, ‘Oh, it’s sweet!’ He was afraid to
actually put it in his mouth. He’d had
no exposure to vegetables.”
To continue the progress of these
much-needed endeavors, Rails-to-Trails
Conservancy is helping both Urban
Tilth and Gompers Guerrilla Garden
expand through its Metropolitan Grants
Program, funded by The Coca-Cola
Foundation. With these grassroots
efforts, a community is coming together.
For more information on Urban
Tilth, visit
and, for
Gompers Guerrilla Garden, check out
Small Town,
Big Trail Support
Snuggled into the Catskill Mountains,
the town of Andes, N.Y., is blessed with
a bounty of natural beauty. But while
a number of hiking trails zig-zag off
into the area’s rugged wilderness, until
recently there were, a bit surprisingly, no
trails within the town itself—nothing
suitable for older generations or families
with young children. That is, until Ann
Roberti got an idea.
I went to a Catskill Mountain Club
meeting and they were discussing the
economic benefits of trails in communi-
ties,” says Roberti. “A lightbulb went on
and, after the meeting, I emailed the two
groups about the idea and just kind of
ran with it.”
The other group Roberti is refer-
ring to is Andes Works, of which she is
also a member; last fall, the citizen-led
organization had been looking for ideas
to boost economic development in the
community. Roberti’s idea—to create a
trail along the old Delaware & Northern
Railroad on the outskirts of town—
seemed like the perfect solution, as many
of the town’s friendly eateries and shops
are supported by tourism. Both Andes
Works and the Catskill Mountain Club
were on board immediately, as was Town
Supervisor Marty Donnelly, who calls
the trail route “exceptionally beautiful,
relaxing and soul satisfying.”
High school students at work in the Gompers
Guerilla Garden along the Richmond