If you frequent the Dimond, you’ve probably noticed many “beauty spots,” areas where flowers and shrubs are planted and cared for. Have you ever wondered how it all happens? Well, it’s a remarkable range of volunteers—some independent and others connected with organizations. They all share a love of plants and community, and dedication to keep it all thriving.
This page highlights those spots and the wonderful people who do the tending. Alex Park, a member of DIA’s Beautification Committee, is collecting their stories firsthand. What follows is in their words, with light editing. Eventually, we’ll have a dozen or so profiles. Here are two as a start.
DIMOND PARK ENTRANCE
JIM CUNNIFF is a volunteer who maintains the garden at Dimond Park’s main entrance on Fruitvale under the City of Oakland’s Adopt-a-Spot program. Jim spoke to Alex in December 2018, while Jim and DIA boardmember Marion Mills were planting daffodil bulbs.
My partner and I bought a place nearby in 2001, so we’ve been here for 18 years.
I have a balcony that looks onto the park and really love it. It’s a condo, so I don’t have a yard. I grew up with a yard and gardening, so this became sort of a place for me to do some gardening. I knew the city was not maintaining this, so over the years it had gotten pretty overgrown. I started doing some weeding, and doing some plantings, and it got better.
There used to be another garden, right along the fence, but the city couldn’t maintain it. I looked out there one day and they were bulldozing it. I was afraid they were going to bulldoze this, too, so I decided I’d take care of it. That way, it has a better chance of surviving.
My partner, Arnell, and I do it, mostly. I’m semi-retired now, so I have more time. Last year I met Marion, who was out here planting daffodil bulbs through the Keep Oakland Beautiful program. I came out and said, “You want some help?” This is now our second year working together.
It would be great to have more volunteers. It’s not my park, and I want the community to use it. Whenever I’m here, neighbors are always very appreciative.
BUSINESS DISTRICT PLANTERS
KATHY CASKEY is a volunteer who oversees planting, watering, and maintenance for more than a dozen big planter pots in the Dimond business district. Kathy spoke with Alex in April 2019.
I get to organize people, and make sure we’ve got follow-through. Once a month, I’m out looking at the pots, checking that the watering is being maintained. It’s on a volunteer basis, so it flows as volunteer work does. I do the planting, and the weeding and feeding, that kind of thing. Also selecting the pots, and determining what goes in them. Certain things have survived and taken over, and others, after multiple attempts, they’re not making it.
I think the biggest challenge is the water maintenance issue, because people have to bring containers and water, usually from home. We do have some really good business owners who are helping. That’s the ideal situation, because they have water nearby, and work nearby.
We’re an aging group. We’re hanging in there with what we can do physically, but if these pots, especially the big ones, need to be repotted, really redone–which they will—we’ll need some younger volunteers.
The best thing about the pots is volunteers can work independently. They can just show up when they want. I can show up and do my thing. I love that.