Auburn community garden prime for planting

Applications for School Park Preserve plots available Friday
By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
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Become a member

What: All-organic edible community garden

Where: School Park Preserve, 55 College Way, Auburn

When: Applications are available Friday at They need to be turned in by April 24.

Cost: $60 for this season. If there are more than 26 applicants, a lottery will be held.

Sponsorships: For $100 you get a plaque with your business name on the box.

Katy Fries has been working on the Auburn School Park Preserve Community Garden project since its beginning, so it only makes sense that she plans to use it to teach her students about gardening from seed to harvest.

The Placer High School teacher for intellectually disabled students is just one of a group of the garden organizers who are ready to see the project blossom.

After a year of countless volunteer hours and raising more than $10,000 in charitable contributions, the edible organic garden is opening for public applications on Friday.

Fries’ class of eight students will be signed up for one of the 26 boxes and three others are planned for use by other Placer High School classes.

She said she is looking forward to the “magical moment” of seeing all the hard work pay off and “where my students will be able to put the seeds in the ground and see the metamorphosis of the change that occurs through creation of their own food.”

The cost for a box this season is $60. Applications, available at, must be turned in by April 24. If there are more than 26 applicants, a lottery will be held.

“It’s a great place for people who want to get out and meet with other people,” said project architect Maureen Murphy, who is a member of the steering committee along with Fries. “We really had a great time with this.”

The garden had been a vision of the late Susan Cooley-Gilliom, founder of the Emigrant Trails Greenway Trust who died in 2003 at 56 of breast cancer. It is the final aspect of the School Park Preserve development to which Cooley-Gilliom and Bob Gilliom donated $900,000.

She envisioned a place in town where people could grow organic food and learn about gardening, Murphy said. In that sense, Fries and her students will make that vision a reality.

The students she works with often have people doing a lot for them, so this will be an opportunity for them to grow in that sense, she said.

“My goal is to help them understand that there are some very simple things they can do for themselves, including planting and growing their own food and plants, and so forth,” Fries said.

Murphy expects interest to be high for the limited amount of boxes, and in the future she anticipates expanding to add four more gardening plots.

The garden will be open year-round, there is a lock system to keep it secure and it will be “animal-proof,” she said.

“Members will be responsible for food in the box,” Murphy said. “Water will be accessible, but they will have to run tubing and supply drip heads. We only want non-invasive plants and we encourage members to educate themselves about genetically modified plants, and to not go with those.

“If they want to intersperse a few flowers in there for pollination, that’s fine.”

There is also a lower garden area open to the public that currently has some native plants and mandarin trees, but she said it is ready for “the community to take ownership of it.” 

The community garden project has been done solely on charitable contributions and volunteer efforts, and there is more work to be done, Murphy said.

“We’re always looking for more donations to help keep it running,” she said. “We need to build some compost bins and we need a couple of picnic tables out there, and we still need to build our sign. We’re going to be building a real beautiful, decorative gate out of old gardening and farm implements.”

A public dedication of the community garden is set for June 13.


Jon Schultz can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews. Journal Features Editor Paul Cambra contributed to this story.