The Hidden Garden Steps is among 14 projects in San Francisco to be honored with a NEN (Neighborhood Empowerment Network) Award in City Hall on Wednesday, January 27, 2016 starting at 6 pm. Reservations to attend this free event can be made at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/nen-awards-tickets-18894018518, and we’re hoping to see as many members of our community of support there as possible.
“It’s been an amazing nomination process over the last few months and so many deserving people and organizations were submitted for consideration,” NEN representatives noted in their announcement this week.
“NEN awards is a partnership between the Neighborhood Empowerment Network and the Community Challenge Grant Program of the City and County of San Francisco to produce an annual celebration in honor of the individuals and organizations that take an active role in improving our neighborhoods,” the formal Awards Ceremony site shows.
“For many years, individuals and organizations have invested valuable time and energy to help improve the communities & neighborhoods of the City and County of San Francisco. The Neighborhood Empowerment Network and the Community Challenge Grant want to turn the spotlight onto these committed stakeholders by dedicating an evening celebration for their work. The NEN wards will be an evening reception that will elevate and celebrate the people who have made our neighborhoods better places to live. The awards will be given out by various City agencies. The evening will also include a presentation on the work of the recipients of last year’s Community Challenge Grants and an announcement of the recipients of this year’s grants.”
Best Community Green Project: The Euclid Gardens Expansion Project
Best Neighborhood Watch Group: 500-700 Block of San Bruno Neighborhood Watch Group
NERT Leadership Award: Sylvia Borgonovo
Most Empowering City Employee of the Year Award: Captain Joseph McFadden
Youth Neighborhood Leader Award: Joshua Cardenas
Best Graffiti Watch Volunteer Award: Kappa Sigma Fraternity Pi-Upsilon Chapter
Comeback Neighborhood of the Year: Cayuga Terrace
Best Merchant Association/CBD: Outer Mission Merchants and Residents Association
Best Community Challenge Grant Project: Hidden Garden Steps
Outstanding Park Volunteer Group: Friends of North Beach/Joe DiMaggio Playground
NEN Lifetime Achievement Award: Joelle Kenealy
NEN Hall of Fame: Rosario Anaya
Best Community Building Event: Art Night SF
The recent 10th anniversary celebration of the San Francisco Department of Public Works (DPW) and San Francisco Parks Alliance (SFPA) Street Parks Program reminds us that the Hidden Garden Steps community is continuing to become seamlessly interwoven with other communities of volunteers.
A brief video prepared for the Alliance by students from San Francisco State University places the Steps project within the larger context of volunteers collaborating with others to incrementally improve the neighborhoods in which we live. Onsite conversations at the celebration, which was held in San Francisco’s Progress Park (another highly successful Street Parks project), gave Steps and other Street Parks Program stewards a chance to see how they can work more closely together to support even more street parks in San Francisco. And stewards currently engaged in trying to complete projects including the Athens Avalon Greenspace clearly realized from Steps and other colleagues that they are not alone in the ever-growing family of volunteers nurtured and supported through DPW and the SF Parks Alliance.
The interactions between Hidden Garden Steps volunteers and others around San Francisco consistently provide rewards far beyond the effort required to initiate and maintain those interactions. Through the donations of plants we receive from other volunteer-maintained gardens for the Hidden Garden Steps gardens, we are literally planting reminders that those succulents and native California plants connect us to a network of public and private gardens lovingly tended by Street Parks Program colleagues like John Priola and Paul Matalucci. Through the conversations that take place on an almost daily basis between Steps neighbors and visitors from many different parts of the world, friendships clearly blossom. And through the efforts of the ever-growing group of people who take the times to sweep the Steps, remove the small amounts of trash that sometimes end up on the Steps, and tend the gardens, people who might otherwise feel as if the Steps belong to someone else are drawn into conversations that lead to their own participation in preserving and adding to the beauty of the site on 16th, between Kirkham and Lawton streets, in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset District.
What clearly is at the heart of successful Street Parks Program projects are the people and connections they inspire. Volunteers like Liz McLoughlin are working to document the individual stories behind the more than 600 tiles supported by donors to the Hidden Garden Steps project. Other volunteers capture and share photographs via Facebook and Twitter to document some of the interactions that add to the sense of community that continues to grow on the Steps. And neighbors who might otherwise never meet are increasingly stopping to chat with each other onsite.
If you haven’t yet joined the Steps community, please don’t hesitate to come onsite to see what you’ve been missing.
N.B.: Numerous articles documenting the Hidden Garden Steps project remain available on the Building Creative Bridges blog. Steps updates can be found on this Friends of the Hidden Garden Steps blog. Stories provided by donors to the Hidden Garden Steps project are currently being added to the project website by Steps volunteer Liz McLoughlin, and a step-by-step virtual tour created by McLoughlin and by project volunteer Gilbert Johnson is also under development.
While the drought continues to take its toll, the gardens on either side of Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher’s 148-step ceramic-tile mosaic on the Hidden Garden Steps are thriving thanks to the love and attention they are receiving from Steps volunteers and donors.
Volunteers continue to meet for planting and maintenance on the second Saturday of each month from 1 – 3 pm onsite (16th Avenue, between Kirkham and Lawton streets in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset District)—the next gathering, open to new and returning volunteers, will take place on September 13, 2014. And when we convene this month, we’ll have plenty to celebrate, and plenty to do.
A large donation of succulents, arranged by project volunteer Barbara Meli, helped plug several gaps in the gardens earlier this week, and more plants from the same neighborhood donor are on the way.
Equally exciting is the continuing expansion of our Steps garden donor base through collaborations with volunteers in other parts of San Francisco. Former garden-shop owner Bill DiFrancisco, for example, has provided more than a dozen succulents taken from a site he helps maintain along the Harry Street Stairs, located between Laidley and Beacon in San Francisco’s Glen Park neighborhood. This donation came about when a couple of us involved with the Hidden Garden Steps met Bill on the Harry Steps recently and ended up comparing notes about plantings in these urban public settings. His need to thin some of his plants was a perfect match for the need for additional drought-tolerant plants on the Hidden Garden Steps site, so several bags of succulents made their way across town this morning for planting on Saturday.
To join the Friends of the Hidden Garden Steps’ gardening efforts or for more information about the Hidden Garden Steps and the Friends of the Hidden Garden Steps, please visit the project website at http://hiddengardensteps.org and the Friends blog at https://hiddengardensteps.wordpress.com.
September began with a noticeable increase in the number of people visiting the Hidden Garden Steps, thanks to a one-line mention in Kristina Malsberger’s “Secrets of San Francisco” article in the September-October 2014 issue of Via magazine in print and online.
The article is a wonderful combination of brief write-ups of “superstar” sites (e.g., the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, and the Filbert Steps, with its set of gardens—the Grace Marchant Gardens—that indirectly influenced the gardens around the Hidden Garden Steps) accompanied by photographs and longer features about “don’t miss” sites around the city. Mount Sutro (along the edge of the Inner Sunset District), for example, is the “don’t miss” feature connected to the brief mention of Golden Gate Park, and the 16th Avenue Tiles Steps/Moraga Steps (on Moraga Street, between 15th and 16th avenues here in the Inner Sunset) is the “don’t-miss” feature connected to the mention of the Filbert Steps and the Grace Marchant Gardens.
Malsberger’s popular feature story and photograph of the original set of ceramic-tiled steps ends with a boost for the Hidden Garden Steps: “When you’re ready for your next stairway adventure, the nearby Hidden Garden Steps, at 16th Avenue and Kirkham Street, were completed in 2013 by the same artistic team [Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher] and offer their own gorgeous tile tapestry.”
A brief informal survey of visitors during the Labor Day holiday weekend showed that plenty of people from San Francisco Bay Area cities (e.g., Berkeley, Palo Alto, San Rafael, and Santa Rosa), from other parts of the United States (Florida, Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania), and a few other countries (France, Mexico, and China) were attracted to the neighborhood by the article. They expressed a tremendous amount of appreciation for the numerous volunteers who helped bring the Hidden Garden Steps project to fruition and who continue to maintain the site. And, through their presence, they helped strengthen the sense of community that remains at the heart of the project.
For more information about the Hidden Garden Steps and the Friends of the Hidden Garden Steps, please visit the project website at http://hiddengardensteps.org and the Friends blog at https://hiddengardensteps.wordpress.com.
The Hidden Garden Steps site (16th Avenue, between Kirkham and Lawton streets in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset District) has increasingly become a playful venue for unplanned community interactions over the past several months.
While work was underway to install project artists Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher’s 148-step ceramic-tile mosaic in fall 2013, visitors to the site began leaving small objects. A couple of plastic figures appeared (and just as quickly disappeared) at the foot of the Steps, followed by the addition of a small plastic salamander in the soil at the top of the site—an apparent homage to the ceramic-tile salamander that extends across two flights of stairs on the top third of the site.
Visitors have, at times, brought all sorts of objects (including large stuffed animals) to include in their onsite photographs, and other plastic figures (including a tiny frog) have replaced the salamander in the spiral at the top of the Steps.
Our latest gift from an anonymous donor is a series of words on refrigerator magnets attached to the recently-installed handrails. Comments formed from those words are already beginning to express a variety of sentiments to augment the expressions of delight, gratitude, and wonder that we hear on a daily basis from those drawn to the beauty of what community collaboration has produced.