Community garden celebrates grand opening

Jul 29, 2014 11:56 PM by Jason Atcho

Butte Environmental Council broke ground on the Oak Way Community Garden this spring after getting permission to use the land from the city of Chico. Tuesday afternoon, they had their grand opening to show it off. "It was supposed to be a fire station for the surrounding community but since we can't build any new fire stations right now, we thought we'd approach the city and ask if we could grow food," said Mark Stemen, president of the Butte Environmental Council.

After conducting a land survey with Chico State, hundreds of lots were available for community gardens across the city but Butte Environmental Council picked this one and got to work. "We put up a fence, we've put up irrigation, we've leased out to gardeners, and we're having a fun night tonight to celebrate that," said Stemen.

In addition to usual crops like tomatoes, corn, and sunflowers, some growers are trying their hand with the unusual. "We have a Guatemalan blue banana squash which is behind me. It's this huge squash that someone here is growing and sharing with all of the other gardeners. So it's a really neat thing to come together, see what some people grow, try different things, and make different friendships," explained Stemen.

What makes this community garden unique is that some of the plots will be built with easy access for the elderly and those with disabilities. "The ground is going to be fully wheelchair accessible and then all the gardening itself is going to be in raised beds," explained Even LeVang, executive director for Independent Living Services of Northern California. They're building those plots and say it's a great opportunity for those that they serve. "A lot of our folks live in apartments and they don't have anywhere to garden nearby, so this is also a way to get out and meet folks in the community."

Those involved say bringing a community together is the ultimate goal. "I've done a lot of things in my life but I think this is the most fun. Growing community is about as good as it gets."

Butte Environmental Council says all the lots for the garden have already been leased and there's a waiting list. If you're interested in leasing a plot, you can get more information at


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