VISTA — After a two-year coronavirus hiatus, the family-friendly Earth Day celebration returned on April 23 to Vista, welcoming visitors from all over the region to Alta Vista Botanical Gardens and the flourishing property atop Brengle Terrace Park.
Celebrating its 13th year, on Saturday, April 23, the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens hosted a plant sale, lessons on sorting trash, as well as Folklorico dancers from Rancho Buena Vista High School and other performances.
The free event is a yearly opportunity to learn to avoid negatively impacting \the environment, even in small ways. Children could learn about endangered habitats, vermicomposting, and creative ways to recycle.
Hands-on activities such as worm and cotton discovery, eggshell mosaics and “How I can help the Earth…” pledge stations were scattered around the children’s garden.
“The gardens are gorgeous and peaceful,” said Brittney Aladetohan, who brought daughters Maya, 2, and Makaya, 5, to the event. “We compost at home, but then having to go to the activity was great.”
Aladetohan said she recycles and looks for ways to decrease her waste, and she found another way to recycle while at the event.
Strawberry baskets — the green plastic ones often containing the berries — make great bubble wands.
“I never would have thought to do that with them,” Aladetohan said. “You’re reusing them instead of buying something at the store.”
Earth Day is a way of bringing people to the gardens, said Nancy Jones, or “Farmer Jones,” the director of children’s programs at the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens.
And once people are here, the learning can start. Vista’s botanical gardens is an interactive space dedicated to engaging the community in preserving endangered habitats. It’s a place where art meets nature, as trails guide visitors around thoughtfully placed sculptures.
But it’s also a center for adults and children to get a hands-on education on the environment.
“It’s a good place for kids to get a good start. It’s important to get kids in the garden,” Jones said.
Membership has grown with exceeding interest, and likely with help from Jones’ interactive teaching style. The Alta Vista Botanical Gardens nonprofit now has more than 900 members, which is nearly double than what it started with at the beginning of the decade.
Jones believes events like the Fall Fun Festival and Earth Day are essential to draw in those who may not have previously known about the gardens.
In fact, just three hours into the event, three new members were signed up, according to Mary Murphy, who sits on the Alta Vista Gardens Board of Directors.
“We like to eat the community in here as much as we can,” said Carole Lee, who oversees the adopt-a-garden program and is also a Garden Board member. “Some people have lived here all their lives and never knew the gardens were here.”
And once residents find the gardens, it’s easy to love.
“It’s all volunteer-run,” Murphy said, pointing to a kiosk and information board that was built through volunteer organizations. “These are all volunteer projects, the whole community comes to help us.”
The Vista High Environmental Club and Character Leaders groups brought back Earth Day Rocks! — a paint-a-rock project. Also, the Woman’s Club of Vista supported the earth-friendly mosaic corner, which used recycled eggshells and tape for children’s creations. Both are long-time supporters of the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens.
Most vendors, too, are long-time supporters of the nonprofit. This is the 13th year the San Diego Beekeeping Society has sparked childhood and adult interest with its show hive, honeycomb and honey.
John Christopher, a member of the society, said that while the Earth Day event draws attention to preserving bees, it also is a place for future beekeepers to connect.
“Events like these have real value,” he said, “because it helps get the word out about the resources available for beekeepers.
“And the more beekeepers, the better.”
In addition to exploring the 14-acre garden to the tunes of local favorites like Vic Moraga, plants and nature-related products were available for sale.
Resident Kitty Talley attends similar events in the area when she can, but this is her first time at the botanical gardens.
“It was fun, the music, the plants,” Talley said, adding that the was particularly excited to learn about Farm Fresh to You.
Farm Fresh to You, one of about 20 vendors at the event, is a California-based company that delivers produce through a subscription.
“It’s really a great thing,” Talley said.
Talley could be seen with a few plants tucked in a small rolling cart, supporting local growers.
The Alta Vista Botanical Garden’s GrowGetters supported a plant sale with 4-inch potted plants donated from growers in the area. Other vendors included local companies and organizations such as the Lion’s Club and other nonprofits.