Riverside Community Orchard

The Riverside Community Orchard is a public fruit orchard installed and maintained by community members in Santa Cruz’s downtown Lower Ocean/rivermouth neighborhoods, developed by the Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project and Seed Culture Labs, in collaboration with the City of Santa Cruz Parks & Recreation Department.   It is the first such project in Santa Cruz on public land, with the aim of providing fresh, nutritious food to the neighborhood, while also serving as an educational model such that Santa Cruz residents can equip themselves with the skills to replicate similarly sustainable land uses on other plots of ground.

Aerial view of Barson's Riverside Hotel and orchards, Santa Cruz, California, ca. 1920s
Aerial view of Barson’s Riverside Hotel and orchards, Santa Cruz, California, ca. 1920s (via Linda Rosewood)

It is located at a bend in the San Lorenzo River that for nearly half a century bloomed with the famous and extensive pear orchards of Barson’s Riverside Hotel, said to fetch top prices on the Eastern seaboard to due the “fine rich silt” of our river plain.

The project’s first planting was in 2015 at Riverside Gardens Park, a small neighborhood park of recent construction.  At this site we cultivate blueberries, two varieties of citrus, four varieties of grape, and nine varieties of heritage and coastal-adapted apples, pears, and Asian pear.  Since its initial planting, the orchard here has hosted a number of educational maintenance workshops, drawing new and old faces each time, and has attracted environmental tour groups of local and international visitors.

Visualization of the first site of Riverside Community Orchard, planted 2015, at maturity (Visualization: Seed Culture Labs)
Visualization of the Riverside Gardens Park site of the Riverside Community Orchard, planted 2015, imagined at maturity (Image: Seed Culture Labs)

Based on the success of our initial orchard, in 2017, over 60 community members again gathered to expand the orchard to a new and larger site, just across the street at Mike Fox Park.  This new ground is an ideally situated, sunny location visible to ample Riverside Bridge traffic, adjacent to and accessible from the downtown levee Riverwalk, and providing our fruit trees the drought-tolerance and resilience inherent to the groundwater of the historic San Lorenzo River floodplain.  Here we have planted lemons, limes, mandarins, oranges, tangelos, apples, pears, plums, peaches, apricots, and apriums, with more to come.  The Riverside Community Orchard will soon total as many as 35 fruit trees, and has so far involved several hundred Santa Cruz residents in its development, maintenance, and funding.

Visualization of the Mike Fox Park site of the Riverside Community Orchard, planted 2017, imagined at maturity (Image: Seed Culture Labs)

 

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  • Roles Proposal, Design, Promotion, Sourcing, Teaching, Horitculture
  • Partners Seed Culture Labs, Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project, City of Santa Cruz Parks & Rec, Lower Ocean & rivermouth neighbors
  • Founded 2014