Looking around the Richmond Greenway gardens and signs a story of community organizations working together can be discovered. New signs are sprinkled along the trail talking about non-profit organizations that have deep roots in Richmond, but passerby and neighbors can also learn about wildflowers, pollinators, native California habitat gardens, edible gardens, bioswales, rails and trails, bmx bicycles, bike shops, bike tours, festivals and people that have made Richmond a great community to live in and a place where people have grown through years of struggle.
As we look for new ideas for signs and stories to tell in our new projects we want the signage to be a window into a story that people can be proud of. We also want to ensure that people are learning about our mission to protect and appreciate local watersheds, their natural history and the importance of urban greening.
At the Booker T Anderson Bioswale we chose to highlight two aspects of the story of our work. First, we wanted to recognize the many years of work that The Watershed Project and the community have put into making Baxter a more natural creek. The legacy left by the Friends of Baxter creek and its allies is a natural gem set in the midst of an urban neighborhood. Over the years many segments of the creek were daylighted culminating this year with The Watershed Project’s completion of the largest retrofitted bioswale next to a creek. These projects were inspired by the recognition of the natural history of the area and the desire to bring light and life back into the urban areas of Richmond and El Cerrito. This sentiment is beautifully illustrated by the shimmering watercolors of Laura Cunningham and the writings of Lisa Owens-Viani (Natural History of the Baxter Creek Watershed, © The Watershed Project, 2003).
The second part of the story is told by a new illustration of what is a bioswale, illustrated by Gabriela Munera and Violeta Gonzalez. This sign explains to the public the importance of bioswales, and how it helps protect the water quality of the creek, and provides a cross section of the inner workings of a bioswale.
For the Carlson Greenway Portal site we chose to emphasize two aspects of the project. First we wanted to highlight the importance of urban forestry to replenish water resources. Second, we wanted to interpret the benefits of bioswales.
The urban forestry sign emphasizes what happens below the surface of the soil and explains why trees are important for water resource conservation, flood protection, erosion prevention and water filtration, without forgetting the importance trees play to provide shade and clean air for pedestrians and park users.
The second sign about swales exemplifies the idea of a swale as an ephemeral creek and explains all the benefits of swales as stormwater bio-filters. These concepts were beautifully illustrated by the drawings and text created by Gabriela Munera and Violeta Gonzalez.
The Unity Park Habitat garden signs invites people to see and imagine the natural history of the area as we reclaim some of the forgotten functions of nature buried under the many layers of asphalt and urbanization. Original art by Laura Cunningham is accompanied by photographs of local creatures and plants and poetry provided by our own Martha Berthelsen.
We hope that these signs do not become clutter in the landscape but beautiful art pieces for people to admire and learn about the reasons why we do what we do. We hope that will help people notice and interpret the many signs of life and hope that are being planted around the city of Richmond.
Next time you go for a walk or bike ride along Richmond, take a minute to admire the art and the gardens.