Kelly honored for partnership work
Linda Kelly was honored with the Community Partnership Award from the International City/County Management Association.
In the year since it was dedicated, the Maloney Family Water-Wise Education Garden at the Sonoma Community Center has demonstrated the benefits of having a water-conscious, rainwater-fueled demonstration garden.
It took countless hours and the combined efforts of many members of the community, but it was the brainchild of City Manager Linda Kelly, whose work on the project earned her and the City of Sonoma the Community Partnership Award from the International City/County Management Association (ICMA).
This award is generally given to a city manager who has collaborated with his or her community to make a positive change, be it by planting a community garden, orchestrating a day of community-wide volunteering or building a family service center, among other past examples.
Kelly remarked that she was "very surprised to receive the award. I knew that Pam (Gibson, community center board president) had nominated us for an award given by the League of California Cities, but I had no idea she nominated us for the Community Partnership Award. ICMA is a huge organization, so I imagine they have a lot of nominations. I was really surprised."
The award is presented annually to one city manager of a small city (fewer than 10,000 residents), which Kelly won; one of a medium sized city (10,000 to 49,900 residents); and one city manager of a large city (50,000 residents or more), with thousands of nominations received each year.
The award will be handed out during the ICMA annual conference, held this year in Milwaukee on Sept. 21.
Prior to the existence of the Maloney Family Water-Wise Education Garden, irrigating the expansive lawn in front of the community center required a tremendous amount of water. An average 100-foot-by-100-foot patch of grass uses approximately 6,230 gallons of water when a sprinkler is used for watering. The community center had around 5,000-square-feet of grass, resulting in a massive watering bill. Since implementing the specialty garden, landscape water usage has been cut by 70 percent. When the facility's 16,000-square-foot roof is used to properly harvest rainwater, center managers think they can collect all the water needed throughout the year to keep the garden thriving.
Kelly explained that the birth of the garden was a straightforward process. "It started out very simply; the city met with the community center and we spoke about utilizing the Cash for Grass program there. I asked Kathy Swett (executive director of the community center) if they wanted a showcase area, and it pretty much took off from there. A lot of the work was actually done by volunteers."
The City's Cash for Grass program invites residents of Sonoma to replace their water-intensive lawns with drought-resistant landscaping. In exchange, the city offers up to $1,000 in subsidies to cover the lawn removal and replacement. In 2009 and 2010, 91,800-square-feet of grass has been removed saving nearly 58,000 gallons of water. Learn more about Cash for Grass at Sonoma's City Hall.
Kelly added, "I believe the biggest effect it (the garden) has had on the community is showing them what they can do in their own yards to conserve water while still maintaining a beautiful garden year round. The community center also uses it for small events, tours and lessons."
The water-wise garden was developed to show the community numerous ways a drought resistant garden can still be attractive, from using native plants to succulents. The project was a true community collaboration, receiving donations from numerous Valley businesses, input from the Sonoma County Water Agency, the Sonoma County Master Gardeners, the Sonoma Ecology Center and the City of Sonoma Public Works Department, with volunteer support from St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Prestwood Elementary School, Crescent Montessori School, the Sonoma Garden Club, Sonoma's Eagle Scouts and the Sonoma Charter School.
Swett said, "This project really came from Linda and the city's desire to have something that represented the community. The city wanted to impress upon people that a big, sprawling green lawn wasn't necessary, especially with the high water costs."
She added, "The garden is a good example of why it works well when the city and nonprofit organizations work together. Everybody wins."
The Community Center is located at 276 E. Napa St. For more information regarding the Maloney Family Water-Wise Education Garden and gardening classes, visit sonomacommunitycenter.org or call 938-4626, ext. 1.