image- johnston garden
There seems to be a widespread agreement that the Johnston House will be an ideal location for a new community garden. Kyle Ludowitz / Review

The seeds are planted, metaphorically speaking, to create the first community garden in Half Moon Bay.

After a groundswell of local support, a formal proposal to design a community garden at the iconic Johnston House was presented to the Parks and Recreation Commission last week. 

Newly appointed recreation Commissioner Evelyn Erickson is spearheading the project along with about 15 volunteers. Erickson’s plan is two-fold: first to start a community garden for the city and then to form a nonprofit that would assist others in launching their own communal gardens. 

Erickson invited the founder of Pacifica Gardens, Loretta O’Brien, to speak to the Parks and Recreation Commission on May 22. In 2008, volunteers worked to pull the sod from a soccer field at Linda Mar Education Center to create a 30,000-square-foot garden in Pacifica. The garden features plant sales, educational workshops, school field trips and also is used to donate to food pantries. 

Erickson wanted to use the model of Pacifica Gardens to replicate something similar in Half Moon Bay. She envisions opening a garden that has one large plot used by the community versus individual plots.

Erickson would like to start a nonprofit, tentatively called Coastside Friendship Community Gardens, to be a support system for other people who want to begin their own gardens. Erickson used the examples of churches with available land or private people who wanted to start a garden on their property. 

The goals of the city community garden and the nonprofit, according to Erickson, are to provide education about nutrition, create a hands-on learning experience and to promote food security. 

“The hardest part of a community garden is setting it up … the fence, the water, the raised beds,” Erickson said. “It may take a few weekends with volunteers, but once it is set up, it is not that hard. You plant the seeds; you water it.”

Erickson said she does not predict much expense for the city. 

“We just need the permission to use the land,” Erickson said. 

Some other locations were considered, but Erickson said the ideal characteristics of adequate parking, a central location and access to facilities such as bathrooms and a kitchen, make the Johnston House the top spot for the community garden. 

Mary Bettencourt, vice president of the Johnston House Foundation, agreed that the location is ideal. 

“We would be interested in their thoughts for a good place for the garden at the Johnston House,” Bettencourt said. She said she is open to starting a discussion with the city to use the property. 

Fellow Parks and Recreation Commissioner Ellen Clark echoed Erickson’s desire to have the pilot project be at the city’s famous white house. 

“I think it is a suitable location. It is accessible, the land would not really be affected by it and it would be very visible and open to the community,” Clark said. 

Clark said the Parks and Recreation Commission would act as an advisory board on the community garden to the future nonprofit’s work. 

“I think it is a fantastic idea,” Clark said. “It is something the city has been waiting for and what the community needs.”

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