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Neighbors turn a vacant lot into a park that needs little water.

AFTER NINE YEARS OF passing by a neighboring vacant lot that was overgrown and strewn with rubble--and grimacing each time she did--Gayle Welsh turned her dismay into a vision of paradise for her San Juan Capistrano community. She rallied neighbors and city officials, and in just seven months they transformed the neighborhood eyesore into a park.

Ms. Welsh discovered that the city owned the 9,000-square-foot parcel. Before approaching city officials with a proposal for a park, she petitioned neighbors and got 200 supporters. One neighbor, landscape architect Jodi Nelson, created a preliminary site plan, and 27 families pledged donations for trees.

When they presented the petition and site plan to Ron Sievers, the city's director of public lands and facilities, he embraced the park idea on the condition it feature water-conserving plants.

To select plants suited to the Southern California climate, Sievers enlisted the help of native plant expert Mike Evans, of Tree of Life Nursery. The choices are expected not only to yield significant water savings but also to have lower maintenance and fewer pests and diseases than conventional park plantings would.

City crews graded the parcel with equipment donated by a rental firm. The Capistrano Valley Water District installed water service to the park at no cost. One contractor formed and poured the sidewalks and bench pads, and others rotary-tilled and provided electrical services for the irrigation controller.

On a clear day in l990, 70 volunteers planted trees, shrubs, and ground covers--most donated by nurseries.

To visit the park from I-5, exit west on Ortega Highway (State 74). Turn left on Del Obispo Street, then right on Alipaz Street; the park is on the northwest corner of Alipaz and Calle Lucana.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Environmental Action; San Juan Capistrano, California
Author:Ocone, Lynn
Date:Mar 1, 1992
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