Over 400 volunteer in Richmond on MLK Day

A volunteer gardens on the Richmond Greenway during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service event in January 2020.

“A day on, not a day off.” Hundreds of volunteers lined the Richmond Greenway, and more gathered in other park areas today for a day of service in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

Juliana Gonzalez, executive director of The Watershed Project, which holds the event in partnership with Friends of the Greenway and other organizations, estimated roughly 400 volunteers had signed up to perform work along four sections of the Greenway.

From 9 a.m. till noon today, volunteers weeded, mulched, provided tree care and much more at various sites such as Dirt World — the new BMX track at 20th Street — in and around Unity Park, near Harbour 8 Park and from 6th through 8th streets. Tree care was conducted throughout the route. “Piles and piles of mulch” were distributed “so that we can suppress the weeds and make sure the plants can thrive,” Gonzalez said. Following a moment of silence at noon, a celebration took place.

The Greenway is an ever-evolving 3-mile former railroad corridor that has transformed into a community-built pedestrian and bicycle pathway with several new, colorful parks. Throughout the year, the corridor is kept up largely by nonprofits that adopt spots targeted for enhancement. Every year on MLK Jr. Day, their projects get a vast jolt from hundreds of community volunteers.

“Every year this just gets better and better, and [The Greenway] gets more and more use,” Richmond Mayor Tom Butt said. “It’s a real showplace for the city.”

The mayor (pictured below) called the Greenway “an astounding thing.”

“It knits together neighborhoods of Richmond that at one point wouldn’t even talk to each other,” he said. “And at one point it joins the Ohlone Greenway and goes all the way into Berkeley, so it’s really part of a regional project. It’s a grant magnet too, we’ve gotten tens of millions in grants to do work here.”

The Greenway wasn’t the only parkway receiving love in Richmond today. Community projects were also held at North Richmond Farm, 323 Brookside Drive, hosted by Urban Tilth. Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia attended and called it a great service effort.

Also, the 14,000 square foot Happy Lot Farm & Garden at 45 1st St. received some love and attention.

“We’ve taken over a vacant piece of property here in Richmond and turned it into a food oasis,” said Andromeda Brooks, Head Farmer and founder of Happy Lot Farm and Garden.

Back on the Greenway, Rich City Rides hosted a free bike repair event, which doubled as an opportunity to expose the evolving pathway’s potential for cyclists.

“We do this every Friday from 6-8 p.m.” said Michael Bryson of Rich City Rides. “We get a lot of exposure at this park. It’s a really nice park for everyone to come out, have fun, and this is all work done by the community.”