From the East Bay Times: Plan advances for Hayward Community Gardens makeover

Hayward Area Recreation and Park District doubles up on initial investment to $1 million
By  | dmoriki@bayareanewsgroup.com | Bay Area News Group

Link to article: https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/12/22/community-gardens/

HAYWARD — The Hayward Area Recreation and Park District has doubled the amount it plans to spend, $1 million, on initial improvements to upgrade the now-closed Hayward Community Gardens.

“I’ve been involved in this for years now, and the primary focus has been to get people in the garden to grow food,” HARD Director Minane Jameson said at a board meeting where the first phase of improvements were discussed.

“I just want to make sure that we don’t get off track, and that we’re taking care of what we’re supposed to take care of first and then extend it from there. I just want to make sure we are spending our money right,” she said.

The L-shaped, 5.3-acre community garden, near Berry Avenue and Whitman Street, has been closed since June 2015, following disputes among gardeners who leased plots there.

Plans by RRM Design Group, of San Leandro, approved by HARD directors in October envision a rebirth, with 200 20-by-20-foot plots, raised garden beds, a shaded structure for outdoor classes, a produce counter and seed library, storage shed, compost/mulch areas, play areas for children, picnic areas and a 14-foot access road through the site from Whitman to Berry.

Basic initial improvements, totaling about $572,000, focus on the Whitman side of the property and include creating 30 garden plots and raised garden beds, building a compost station and storage shed, and laying down part of a vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian path through the community garden.

Crews will install new metal fences, gates and irrigation systems on the Whitman side of the garden during the initial round of improvements, HARD capital planning and development director Meghan Tiernan said at the Nov. 27 meeting.

HARD also can bundle additional elements of the planned garden, depending on how much directors would like to spend, she said. For instance, building 40 more garden plots, along with chicken coops, a green house, a seed propagation area and more paths, would cost about $125,000.

Constructing a shaded outdoor education area, with a produce counter, seed library, demonstration area and seating areas, would cost an additional $52,000. Building out the barbecue and picnic area, with tables, play areas and public art features, could cost another $257,000.

The HARD board unanimously directed park district administrators to incorporate almost all the suggested projects into the community garden’s first, 3.5-acre phase of improvements, except for the chicken coops. The estimated $1 million price tag is double the $500,000 budget initially set in October for the first phase of improvements.

The board will officially consider funding options and approve plans for the first garden phase next month.

The chicken coops could be installed later once a community gardens program is developed and the reorganized garden group managing the property maintains a good track record, HARD Director Louis Andrade said. There are also lingering concerns about vandalism and having someone monitor the coops, he said.

“I want this to be an asset to the community, not something that’s kind of a forgotten stepchild,” Andrade said.

“It needs to look good, maintain itself and be a public asset, so I do think the education and play areas are important components of that,” he said.

District administrators will work closely with the neighborhood group picked to oversee the community garden site “so that the district’s investment is managed well,” HARD General Manager Paul McCreary said.

“We want to work with them on some best practices so that the community has access to it as well,” he said.

HARD Director Paul Hodges was concerned about costs potentially rising over time but said the immediate goal should be “getting this thing rolling.”

“Looking to the future, I’ve always wanted to see a model that other people envy and want to try to copy,” Hodges said.

“I guess it is what it is and that’s what it’s going to cost,” he said.

A total of $27,155 in Measure WW funds was allocated for RRM Design Group to create plans for the Hayward Community Garden. Construction costs could be funded through Measure F1, the $250 million HARD bond measure approved by voters last year.

“I think the strategy with the first phase of improvements is that, once there’s something there to build upon, there could be grant funding out there as well,” Tiernan said.