SPARE celebrates completion of native garden at Branham Park


Elizabeth Posey

Attendees of the festival eat snacks and play games at Branham Park. SPARE is one the clubs ASB leaders say are making a bigger impact on campus.

Elizabeth Posey, Art Director

After more than a year of planning, the SPARE club held its first festival Sunday at Branham Park to celebrate the completion of their native garden and plant beautification project.

The event began at 2 p.m. and ended at 5 p.m. The celebration began with a tour of the newly completed native garden. Games and food were available, with a live performance from members of the school’s bands.

Where there once was grass and dirt, there is now a picturesque garden with native plant species and a walking path. While most welcome the new native garden as a pleasant addition to the community, few know the full extent to which SPARE officers and volunteers planned and labored for the resulting attraction.

The festival alone took hours of planning and coordination the club and its musicians, including the setup,  food and activities.

SPARE president, junior Xiaomian Yang, hoped the event helped students to destress from school.

“I think nowadays we don’t realize that parks can be fun,” she said.

Even in the first brainstorm for the festival, Yang knew she wanted to combine her interest for both music and plants. “It’s kind of a combination of both my passions,” she said.

Planning for the native garden began in April 2018. Club members met for hours at least once every week over the summer to construct plans and measure the area.

“Honestly, [meetings were] just making a lot of calculations and measurements,” said Luke Makinson, the park beautifications officer, “because although that might not be the first thing that comes to mind, math is a really big part of making sure this all works.” Makinson said.

SPARE was also able to get a grant from the city of San Jose, which provided the group plants, wood chips and tools.

Despite their initial successes in securing help and resources, the process was still frustrating for club members and involved many considerations they did not initially think of. For example, the students had to research and visited local nurseries and native gardens to decide what type of plants would best fit the area to ensure sustainability. Plant compatibility, or which plants can be planted within the same area, also required research and planning.

Once research was complete, they were able to begin the planting process, which lasted from August to December 2018.

“We’ve had plants die or plants get trampled that were expensive,” Makinson said.

While the majority of work in Branham Park has ended, club members want to continue spreading their club’s environmental message through projects around the community and on Branham’s campus.

One major component of their platform, according to Yang, is encouraging students and community members to get involved in native gardens. Their overall goal is to remind the community that gardens and community service are an accessible step in alleviating the larger issue of global warming.

This summer, the members were offered an internship from Parks Advocates, a private San Jose-based organization, to reach out to schools and the community. There, they would present information and awareness through speeches and spark ideas for new projects.

In the next school year, the club hopes to expand its efforts in the park to a wooded area where they would clean up weeds and create a forest path along with signs that give information about SPARE as well as the community.

Although the club has ambitious goals for the future, Sunday was a day of relaxation and enjoyment. For recycling officer George Vetushko, the event represented the club’s success and pride, but he urges the community to do more.

“This is everything we’ve done coming together and flourishing,” Vetushko said. “And at the same time we can share it with the community, with people we love and try to invigorate a sense of content, but also action.”