This senior gardener probably could use some more gardeners and help from nearby CGers, the Agricultural Extension and CA ACGA members to help him sustain this garden for his community.
Resident gives park life
By Yunmi Choi, Daily Journal Staff
A shock of bright colors and pleasant aromas have been springing up on the corner of an undeveloped park in San Mateo, and residents have a neighbor to thank for the city garden.
Long-time resident and retired United mechanic Frank Otero, 65, started planting a variety of flowers in the lot by Borel Middle School at 429 Barneson Ave. three years ago. Otero was sick of the bushes being used as a garbage can and didn't like how teenagers would use the lot as a place to go on drinking binges at night.
"The lot was an eyesore," Otero said. "There was a big bush there and people got to dumping their garbage there. I knocked out the bush and started planting."
Otero wants to continue planting flowers along the edge of the lot, but said he was contacted by city staff to stop. A neighbor had complained that residents shouldn't be planting on city property. If it wasn't for the lone complaining, Otero said city officials would have no issues with his gardening. In fact, he said firefighters have expressed support for the gardening because he trims the weeds and reduces fire risk.
The lot by Borel Middle School is about an acre and a half and is one of four undeveloped parks in the city. With the city facing a budget crisis, Parks and Recreation Director Sheila Canzian said there are no plans to do anything with these areas in the near future. Maintenance workers trim the weeds once in awhile to keep the area safe from fire, but Canzian said that's about as much attention the city can afford to give the area right now.
"We're not considering any new park development at this point," she said.
That's why most of Otero's neighbors are rallying to get the city to allow Otero to continue plying his green thumb.
"He's taken upon himself to improve the neighborhood," said neighbor Priscilla Andrews, who was one of more than 175 people who recently signed a petition to allow Otero to continue his gardening. "We know the city has no money and the neighbors are willing to take it upon themselves to develop the area."
There are plenty of kids in the neighborhood, Andrews said, but no park. After submitting the petition, Andrews said she hasn't heard back from city staff yet.
Eight-year resident Cherie Hammer, who has two young children, said she's supportive of any development of the weedy lot. Hammer said she knows the city has no money right now - exactly why it should allow Otero to continue his one-man project.
Before fall of this year, Canzian said the Parks and Recreation Department plans to hold a cleanup day to get community input on how the city should proceed during its budget crisis.
Yunmi Choi can be reached by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 109. What do you think of this story? Send a letter to the editor: email@example.com