The Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project led a collaboration with the City of Santa Cruz and orchard designer Andy Moskowitz to initiate a new use of public park land: to grow community orchards. The trees are planted and tended by volunteers, while the fruit will be a public resource available to any visitors to the park. Community orchards also serve as an educational space for people to learn about tree care.
Our first orchard, Riverside Community Orchard, includes two sites in the Lower Ocean neighborhood: Riverside Gardens Park and nearby Mike Fox Park. Both parks are located alongside the San Lorenzo River, in an area that was a famous pear orchard through the first half of the 20th Century.
We broke ground on the orchard in February 2015, with over fifty volunteers helping to plant a section of Riverside Gardens Park with citrus, grape, apples, pears, and blueberries. Since its initial planting, this orchard site has hosted a number of educational workshops, and has attracted environmental tour groups of local and international visitors.
Based on the success of our initial orchard, in 2017 we expanded to a larger area nearby at Mike Fox Park, just below the Riverwalk by the Riverside Avenue Bridge. Over sixty volunteers came out to help loosen the soil and dig in sixteen trees including lemons, limes, mandarins, oranges, tangelos, apples, pears, plums, peaches, apricots, and apriums, with more trees planted later.
As of October 2017, after almost four years leading this project, the Fruit Tree Project withdrew from the collaboration due to ongoing personality clashes. To get involved or support these orchards at Mike Fox Park and Riverside Gardens, visit http://santacruzorchard.org/.