Volunteers turn eyesore into prime landscape

CARDIFF BY THE SEA — On any given Saturday a dedicated group of gardeners can be found along the stretch of land between Birmingham and Chesterfield drives beside the railroad tracks.
Beautifying the area known as Carpentier Parkway has been a longtime project of the Cardiff Botanical Society, a committee of the Cardiff 101 Mainstreet Association that leases the land from the North County Transit District.
Over the past seven years, the area has been transformed from a weed-infested, trash-laden eyesore into a promenade teeming with wildflowers, native species and drought tolerant plants.
Linda Lee, a horticulturist with Quality Plantscapes, said the effort has been transformative but also inconsistent. “It’s always been something that the community has wanted to do but we’ve had our challenges,” she said. Ever the optimist, Lee looks forward to expanding the park.
“We want it to be an example for other communities and other businesses that you can have water-wise, chemical-free areas that are still lush,” she said. “Not to mention that it is less-expensive to maintain.”
Described as “frugal, practical and pretty,” the park has tremendous community support.
“We’ve had a dedicated group of volunteers who are cleaning out the massive amounts of trash at either end of the park,” Lee said. The effort to maintain the park is undermined by a core group of troublemakers who habitually use the area as a makeshift pub and have a tendency to pull up plants and irrigation system devices.
But Lee is not deterred. “The more the park is developed, the more difficult it is to destroy it,” she said. “We’ve made great strides in turning something barren into something inviting to the community and cherished.”
The low-maintenance park is a gem. “I remember when nobody would go near this place,” said Cynthia Perkins, a Cardiff resident who frequently walks in the area. “Now it shows that we care about our community by providing a place to walk and just be and it shows that we care about the environment.”
“We’re using 75-percent less water than before at the park,” Lee said. “It shows you what you can have in a park and what you don’t have to sacrifice in order to be green.”
The group is still in need of financial resources from individuals and businesses to maintain and expand the park. Building materials as well as people with trade skills are also in high demand.
“We’ve got eight acres yet to go,” Lee said, referring to the expansion plans.
Current funding for the park is covered by a small city grant that covers basic maintenance and water.
“It’s our front garden,” Lee said, referring to the meandering parkway. “In the future we’d like to have solar-powered pathway lighting and to place our owl and raptor boxes in the trees once they are trimmed in order to keep the gophers under control.”
The short-term goals are all within reach according to Lee. “We’d like to clean up the creek and canyon and plant up the areas all the way to Birmingham,” she said. Widening the pathway is also a top priority. “We want it to be wide enough for bikes, strollers and to accommodate all of the people who come through.”
For more information, visit cardiffbythesea.org or call (760) 436-0431.

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