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The first public orchard in the city of Santa Cruz, Riverside Community Orchard, has been approved at Riverside Gardens Park in the Lower Ocean neighborhood. Fruit trees will be planted on February 8th, 2015 in an atmosphere of community celebration. Future harvests – apples, pears, citrus, and more – will be freely available to community gardeners, neighbors, and the general public.

Visualization of a mature Riverside Community Orchard, fruiting and flowering (somewhat asynchronously!) (Photo/Graphics: Seed Culture Labs)
Visualization of a mature Riverside Community Orchard, fruiting and flowering (Photo/Graphics: Seed Culture Labs)

The non-profit Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project, led by director Steve Schnaar, has initiated this project to complement their program of harvesting surplus fruit and hosting food-preservation workshops. The orchard is being organized in coalition with a group of Lower Ocean neighbors; Andy Moskowitz, Seed Culture Labs and the Santa Cruz Community Food Forest initiative; and David Shaw of UCSC’s Common Ground Center. The City of Santa Cruz’s Parks and Recreation Department gave the go ahead to plant the orchard this winter.

Riverside Gardens Park is the newest park in Santa Cruz, and includes a children’s playground and several community garden allotments. The park is located on a slice of the historic site of the Barson family’s Riverside Hotel, a focal point of the neighborhood for over 100 years. The hotel was especially well known for its extensive surrounding acres of fruit orchards, and the new community orchard will serve as a living link to this history.

Similar to dozens of other community “food forests” emerging in cities such as Seattle and Portland, the intention of the orchard is to inspire the community to gather together; to provide itself with a local source of fresh, nutritious food; to put to sustainable use our natural resources of rain, soil, and sunshine; and to spread knowledge of how to bring these techniques to more gardens. Proponents of the project hope its success will help lead to other community orchards in the area, such as along the new rail to trail line, or the Santa Cruz Riverwalk.

The public is invited to help plant trees on Sunday, February 15 at 1pm. Donations are being accepted by the Fruit Tree Project to help pay for the fruit trees and soil amendments. Donations can be made to the Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project at fruitcruz.org.

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