Community Garden Urban Farm “EcoDistrict” for Larkey Neighborhood.
Updated: Dec 4, 2020
This fall Larkey Park Neighbors United (LPNU) learned about a project that Sustainable Walnut Creek (SWC) is working on to create a community garden/urban farm on un/under-used property owned by East Bay MUD near the park. The LPNU steering committee thought it was a great idea and agreed to support this community-focused effort.
Some of you might have heard about this idea on our Walnut Creek City Council candidate’s forum a couple of months back. We wanted to learn more about what this entailed for the neighborhood so we interviewed Bob Joe and Uli Wolf, both members of Sustainable Walnut Creek.
Linked below, after the interview, are two documents detailing the elements of the project, and some more information about what an “EcoDistrict” is.
Show your support or share feedback: If you’re an area resident or business and are interested in supporting this project in Larkey Park, please let us know by taking our quick poll below or linked here.
LPNU: Hi Bob and Uli, can you tell us more about Sustainable Walnut Creek?
Uli with SWC: we’re a grassroots non-profit that is working to transform Walnut Creek into a highly sustainable community that enhances the quality of life for people everywhere. LPNU: That’s great. Tell us more about what you are working on right here in the Larkey Park neighborhood and how far along you are?
Bob with SWC: Sustainable Walnut Creek has been speaking with EBMUD on the idea of creating a community garden/urban farm on one of their underutilized parcels located on the northeast corner of First Avenue and Buena Vista. The area includes the old pump house, the new pump station and the space across on Buena Vista Ave. EBMUD has started to analyze its feasibility. This is the same parcel where a new 5G tower was proposed and approved.
This idea of a creating a community garden or urban farm has not yet been brought to the attention of the City Council or City Planners because we are still waiting to hear back from EBMUD with their level of support. Our hope is that with Larkey neighborhood support from businesses, organizations like yours, and the residents of the area, EMBUD will be more eager to move forward with this idea.
LPNU: We’ve talked to the steering committee for LPNU and this seems like a wonderful idea that would have lots of neighborhood support. Have you spoken to other organizations about this and received other feedback?
Uli with SWC: Last year Bob and I presented the idea of a community garden along with the idea of an Eco-Educational Campus at the Lindsey Wildlife Experience’s Eco Fest 2019.
Everyone who stopped by our booth was very supportive of the idea and thought creating this here would be a good community development.
Since then more elements were envisioned and the idea grew into creating what is called an “EcoDistrict” for this area. The main elements of EcoDistricts are lowering the ecological footprint, taking into account social equity and economic improvements, all which are found in the 3E’s of sustainability.
While there are several EcoDistricts currently registered around the country, most are in more urban settings and are mixed with businesses or even industry. An EcoDistrict in Larkey Park could be the first of its type, perhaps in the country, where this concept was created in a predominantly residential and suburban neighborhood.
LPNU: All the candidates at our city council panel seemed to support this idea in concept and Walnut Creek’s new mayor, Kevin Wilk, campaigned on continuing to make Walnut Creek a more green city. Do you think if EMBUD approves, that Walnut Creek City Council would support this project? Bob with SWC: We hope so. Our organization is one of the key environmental stakeholders in Walnut Creek’s new Sustainable Action Plan (SAP) formerly the “Climate Action Plan”. Both the Larkey community garden or urban farm and the EcoDistrict are recommendations that we are submitting as elements in the SAP. Other key stakeholders who are giving input to the SAP are Sustainable Contra Costa, Friends of the Creeks, Walnut Creek Open Space Foundation, Youth Leadership Commission, Walnut Creek Downtown, Shadelands Property Business Improvement District, Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce, Bike East Bay, and Sustainable Rossmoor.
LPNU: That’s great. Can you go over what the benefits are to the Larkey neighborhood?
Uli with SWC: These projects are centered in the Larkey Neighborhood and we think that would be a huge benefit for this area. The Community Garden/Urban Farm would be a wonderful green resource offering organically grown vegetables, herbs and fruits for the neighborhood and local restaurants. There could also be an area for propagating native trees and grasses to be used in Walnut Creek’s Open Space for long-term carbon sequestration. We feel strongly that this underutilized EBMUD property, the land, the old pump building, and more are public resources and can be, should be, used for the public good.
LPNU: It would be definitely better than another fake tree that’s masquerading as a 5G cell phone tower!
Uli with SWC: Exactly! The EcoDistrict would bring a renewal of growth, hope and vitality to the neighborhood. Taking it further, the development of an Eco-Educational campus along with a community garden would benefit Lindsey Wildlife Experience’s growth as their younger visitors grow in interest in the connection between wildlife, environment, climate and sustainability. This also applies to the youth of the neighborhood churches. I can go on and on with things that could result from the projects that would benefit the Larkey neighborhood! I hope people take a look at the documents you're adding to this blog post.
LPNU: Yes, I will attach them below so people can see the drawings etc. Can you say a bit more about the concept of an "EcoDistrict" like you’re proposing with the larger concept?
Bob with SWC: There’s a lot of talk about creating a “Just and Sustainable” economic recovery, implementing a “Green New Deal”, achieving “Climate Neutrality” and “Environmental Social Equity”. The concept of an EcoDistrict speaks to some of the goals of all of these initiatives, plus more. EcoDistricts have brought about revitalization and pride to their surrounding communities and neighborhoods as well as having ecological short and long-term benefits. In the case of a Larkey Park EcoDistrict, because it could be the first of its kind for the Bay Area and the region, the immediate neighborhood and visitors from all over would want to be a part of the activities. There is a sense of pride and well-being when you’re part of something very special that’s revitalizing and rejuvenating. This also speaks to maintaining and growing property values as well. People like and enjoy living close to where healthy, fun, and sustainable community activities are happening -- there’s a sense of rejuvenation and vitality in places like that and you can’t help but feel good about living there.
All elements of the EcoDistrict: the Community Garden/Urban Farm, the Eco Educational Campus, the space for outdoor exhibitions and events, the Eco-Adventure Trail and the Eco-Silo all have their own special features where young people and adults, young and old, can all find activities that they’re interested in and can enjoy. Exhibits, teaching and learning all take place at the Eco-Educational Campus and in the Eco Center Building which currently is a vacant building once used by EBMUD as a pump house.
LPNU: Thanks Bob and Uli. This does sound like a wonderful use of this space and a real benefit to our neighborhood, and beyond - especially given the urgency to reverse the harmful impact of climate change on our planet. Please keep us informed and updated on this project.
If you'd like to reach out to someone from Sustainable Walnut Creek, please add your comments on the survey and LPNU will forward them to Bob and Uli.
Additional Background: video of the Walnut Creek Sustainability Workshop from July 29, 2020