2004 Garden Crusader Awards

Winner: Beautification
Bill Maynard, Sacramento, Calif.

Bill Maynard
Garden Crusader Bill Maynard
Community activism and volunteering is in Bill Maynard's blood. He's lived most of his life in Sacramento, Calif., and is directly contributing to making it a vibrant "green" community. His volunteer work started with voter registration, but quickly moved into an arena he's more personally fond of: gardening.

A Mover and Shaker is Born
Bill's family always had a garden while he was growing up. As an adult he grows roses, trees, and shrubs on his one-acre lot in urban Sacramento. It's one thing to beautify your own land, and quite another to feel compelled to create beauty throughout his community. "There is a real need to beautify all sections of Sacramento, especially the lower-income areas," says Bill. So, ten years ago Bill started his greening quest by spearheading a volunteer tree planting program in a vacant lot under some power lines. "The idea was to plant trees that would shade the neighborhood houses in summer, thus reducing air conditioning usage," says Bill.

Buoyed by his success, Bill started a volunteer neighborhood leadership organization to look at other areas of the city that needed greening. "I would entice volunteers to come to each meeting by bringing some garden-related gifts, such as tomato seedlings," he says.

The group began installing shrubs and flowers at a local high school and elementary schools. They'd come back during garden days to help prune and maintain the plantings. Bill and his volunteers also installed roses along a 14-mile bike path that runs through the city. "The roses are actually from my house," he says. "We took cuttings, rooted them, and planted the roses along the bike path. It's very satisfying, and cost effective, to do public plantings this way," he says.

Many of Bill's greening activities are one-day or weekend events. He recently started collaborating with Americorps volunteers in Sacramento during "National Make A Difference Day". This past year, the two groups sponsored more than 21 greening activities involving more than 400 volunteers throughout the city. Some of the activities included tree planting (Sacramento is second only to Paris for its amount of trees), constructing a greenhouse, building fences at schools, and installing plants at the local science museum.

Southside Community Garden
Last year Bill was approached by a local group to help revitalize a 30-year old community garden. "The state and developers took the community garden land for a building project, but found another one-acre lot in the low-income neighborhood to turn into a new garden. They wanted my help with getting it started," says Bill.

Bill is a draftsman and designer at a local engineering firm. He used his skills to create the design and map for the community garden and to write grants for materials and supplies. He worked with the Sacramento Parks and Recreation Department to coordinate the gardens. After only four months, Bill had all 45 garden plots rented and a waiting list at the garden. He even gardens there instead of at his own yard because he's at the garden so much anyway.

The local community has been involved from the start. A high school horticulture class constructed a Native American Garden and high school art students painted a mural along the side of the storage shed. "It's great to help people see they can beautify their community. Often they just need someone to give them a hand," says Bill. Once the garden started, neighbors really took pride in it. They keep it clean and well maintained," he says.

Making More Gardens
Bill is still working to make Sacramento as green as possible. He's collaborating with the city to design and create four more community gardens. He's designed gardens for a dozen schools and helped other non-city sponsored community garden groups get started as well. "Many times these private volunteer groups need a professionally drawn plan to present to the city council," says Bill. "I'm glad to help them think through the design process and draw up the map," he says.

Bill's Master Gardener training through the University of California Extension Service has given him the technical information he needs to help other gardeners. He envisions having a Master Gardener associated with every community garden as a horticultural resource.

While Bill's larger vision includes encouraging more owners of private residences to plant trees, as well as helping kids learn the value of volunteering and hands-on work, he knows gardening is mostly about people connecting with each other and their community. A great example is found in the sizable Laotian and Cambodia immigrant population living in Sacramento. "These people have a rich culture of farming and growing their own food. In Sacramento they tend to live in apartments and are cut off from the land. The community gardens give them a way to grow their own food, teach their children about their culture, and provide a way to interact with their neighbors," says Bill.

With Bill Maynard's enthusiasm, passion, and experience, Sacramento is quickly becoming the green city he envisions for everyone that lives there.

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