By: JENNIFER KABBANY - Staff Writer
VISTA ---- Each Saturday morning, a group of dedicated greenthumbs meets at Brengle Terrace Park. Some sip coffee and review blueprints while tossing around suggestions. Others water plants, sweep driveways and clear pathways. The early-risers are Vista Botanical Garden Foundation board members working to create a 12.5-acre garden in an area of the city's second-largest park that now has little more than Eucalyptus trees and scrub plants. The 12 volunteer board members are steadfastly working toward their goal of opening the Alta Vista Gardens, a name they agreed upon this month. With the new name comes a new concept. The first idea was to create an extravagant rain forest. Now, a different picture has emerged with the garden divided into themes: a children's Fantasyland; a sensory garden for the deaf or blind; an Asian-influenced section complete with bamboo; a ceremonial area with tiered, bench seating.
That concept agrees with city officials, who have wanted to create a garden in the 85-acre Brengle Terrace Park, but can't finance it because of budget constraints, said Jim Porter, Vista parks and recreation director. "It will be easier for us to get community support," Porter said. "One theme, a rain forest, wouldn't attract those who didn't like, well, rain forests. It wouldn't provide us with anything for various other segments of the population." The city purchased the land for a little over $2 million in the late 1980s, but didn't start the garden process for another decade. "We had a lot of priorities and not a lot of money," Porter said. Brengle Terrace Park is one of 13 parks in the city. It is the most used park, although Buena Vista Park south of Rancho Buena Vista High School is also heavily used.
"The concept of the rain forest is completely gone," said Blaine Mogil, the foundation's president. "But we're still developing a subtropical area." Also on the drawing board is a children's playground. "It'll have interactive activities, like pads you can step on and water shoots out," said Bryan Morse, a garden designer and foundation member. "It will have structures and animal sculptures." An abundance of smells and textures will line the sensory part of the garden, Morse said. "And we'll have a big gong installed," he added. One section will be Asian-influenced, with conifers, bamboo, rocks, and maybe a pond with some koi fish, Morse
A lawn area where people may host meetings or watch their loved ones get hitched is one of the more practical areas of the planned garden, Mogil said.The ceremonial area will be developed first because it can produce a profit to help pay for building other parts of the garden, he said. Part of that area will include the Brengle House, a one-story home just south of the reception lawn with a patio facing the lawn and bathroom and kitchen facilities. The ceremonial area can also host lectures and performances on an elevated stage and tiered seating. Mogil said he envisions educational field trips for students as young as kindergarten and as old as college-aged. Intertwined throughout the garden, pieces of artwork will add ambiance and involve the community's artisans, Mogil said. "We plan to involve the new Vista arts council and use them to get art work for park," he said.
Planting new seeds
The idea of creating a garden at Brengle Terrace Park dates back to the 1970s. "It's been in the master plan since the early 1970s," Porter said. "While the land was privately owned, we always envisioned it as being part of the park because it is just such a beautiful sight with great views." The first group of volunteers the city brought together fell apart in July after two years of planning. The foundation's original leader, Mardy Darian, had sought to build a rain forest but resigned ---- along with eight other board members ---- because the city would not give him final say-so over the project, and city officials could not meet the sky-high price tag of about $50 million. The garden's new designs are a 180-degree turn. "Dr. Darian's concept has no bearing on our (plans)," Mogil said. "This is regrouping after the mass exodus ... we have not modified anything, we're starting from the ground up."
Getting green for green
The plan to complete Alta Vista Gardens calls for working on one area at a time and finishing it within 10 years, Mogil said. As each section is complete, that portion would open to the public, he said. There are several hundred dues-paying members of the foundation, but "when the old board broke up, everything was scattered ---- membership lists, everything," Mogil said. Now the foundation is trying to re-establish membership and dollar amounts. The old dues were $45 for individuals, $85 for families. Mogil said he cannot say precisely how much the garden will cost overall because board members are still in the process of writing the business plan. The garden foundation is paying $200 monthly for its water bill and has about $25,000 in cash, Mogil said. "We want to push for community involvement, and we are looking for donations of labor and materials," he said. Since its inception, the foundation has bought about 1,000 trees with seed money from the city, but the trees will not be planted until there is some sort of border to protect against theft, Mogil said.
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