Alta Vista Botanical Gardens is a 14-acre space dedicated to educating the community about nature. The gardens feature a wide variety of plants and flowers, many of them rare and unique. With almost 20 years in existence, the gardens have become a sanctuary for community members to gather and enjoy its beauty, while preserving and protecting the environment. We talk to President Ron Holloway to learn more.
Q&A with Alta Vista Botanical Gardens President Ron Holloway
What is the history behind Alta Vista Botanical Gardens? When was it first built?
Started in 1999, Alta Vista Botanical Gardens (AVBG) is located inside of the old Smitgen property, which once occupied a 16-acre site in the heart of Brengle Terrace Park in Vista. The property was purchased by the City of Vista in 1990 and had been included in the master plan that was developed in 1970. In May of 1999, the nonprofit Vista Botanical Garden Foundation was established through the private donations of Founders Dr. M.E. Darian, Rocco Valluzzi, Larry Hoekstra, JoAnn Hoekstra, and Joe Lentz. In a generous show of support for the Vista Botanical Forest (original name of AVBG), the City of Vista signed a 99-year lease and donated $50,000 toward the project. Since then, numerous civic groups, industry suppliers, and members of the garden have joined in the efforts to establish the Vista Botanical Forest, now named Alta Vista Botanical Gardens.
In July 2003, Dr. Darian and most of the board of trustees resigned, and a new group of volunteers came forward to form a board under the stewardship of Jim Porter, head of City of Vista Parks and Recreation. Over several months, the new board created a new mission statement and vision of what AVBG would one day become.
What is AVBG’s mission?
AVBG has been established to create a botanical garden for the education, enlightenment, and inspiration of our children, and the child within us all. The garden will foster involvement of the community in efforts, both local and abroad, to protect and preserve endangered habitats, which are vital to the health of our planet and all of her inhabitants. It will be a place to reflect, relax, and recharge. The gardens will be a living, changing, and interactive environment which brings together people, nature, and art. It will serve as a gathering place, an educational center, a forum for the arts, and an exhibit of the most remarkable, beautiful, and rare plants in the world.
At-A-Glance | Alta Vista Botanical Gardens
President: Ron Holloway
Address: 200 Civic Center Dr. Vista, CA 92081
Description: Alta Vista Botanical Gardens is a nonprofit located in Vista, boasting a variety of rare plants and flowers. The gardens are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (4:30 p.m. close during the winter) for $5 per person, $3 for younger children, or free with membership.
Tell us more about the grounds and property. How large are the gardens? What type of areas/amenities does AVBG offer?
AVBG is currently 14 acres with many themed gardens throughout. These include the Ivy Bodin Reception Rose Garden, the Garden House and Library, the Australasian Garden, the Jungle Garden and Waterway, the Welcome Garden, the Bugs, Birds, & Butterflies Children’s Garden, the Mediterranean Garden, historic paths, sculptures, the Arid Garden and Oasis, the Subtropical Garden, the South African Garden, a growing area, the California Natives Garden, a labyrinth, and a human sundial.
Does AVBG have any specific programs or attractions?
Walking around the gardens is a peaceful and enlightening experience with many quiet benches to encourage enjoyment of nature and expansive views. Our Children’s Garden is being developed with lots of love and support from the community. Kids of all ages love the informative Discovery Trail and the physical challenges offered. They love the Music Garden and Tube Tunnels. The picnic area is shady and inviting.
The Children’s Garden hosts the Kids in the Garden programs, held monthly by Nancy B Jones (a.k.a Farmer Jones) since 2009. Other programs include Grow Getters, consisting of planting and maintaining our nursery, tours, and Adopt-a-Garden. We also have annual events like Meading at the Garden in April, Earth Day Festival in April, 4th of July Dinner and Fireworks, Fall Fun Festival in October, and Novemberfest.
What is your role at AVBG? What are some of your duties or responsibilities?
As president of the AVBG Board of Trustees, I oversee garden operation, maintenance, rentals, and events. Fortunately, we have many wonderful board members who help run the garden and many willing and hard-working volunteers.
What are the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of your role?
Our challenge is to keep the gardens growing with minimal financial support. The reward is seeing the gardens grow with so many volunteers stepping up to develop new features, sponsor sculptures, and maintain the gardens.
“The gardens are a living, changing, and interactive environment which brings together people, nature, and art.”
How is AVBG maintained and funded?
Through membership fees, gate entry fees, events such as festivals and fundraisers, cell tower rentals, Garden House and Garden Area rentals, grants, donations from members of the community and service clubs, and sponsorships from local businesses, all of which are always welcome!
How many staff members work on the property? Can you tell us more about their roles?
AVBG has two part-time paid employees and numerous volunteers. Our new Adopt-a-Garden program has brought in more than a dozen willing volunteer workers who put in many hours of trimming, weeding, and ensuring that irrigation is functioning correctly.
At-A-Glance | President
Name: Ron Holloway
Profession: Civil Engineer
Hobbies & Interests: Travel, golf, garden, Lions Club, sports
Favorite Spots in Vista: AVBG, Sunrise Café, Urbn Pizza, Ciao Restaurant, Prohibition Brewery
Does AVBG offer any opportunities for school/group field trips or other large events?
Yes, Nancy B Jones has provided many field trips, classes, and tours of the gardens for students, scouts, and adults. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange dates and topics. Other board members have also provided tours for various groups. Our festivals are free for families; our Novemberfest and Meading in the Garden events are fundraisers for the gardens. Rentals of the whole gardens or specific areas (including the Garden House) are available for reasonable fees.
Does AVBG need volunteers? How should those interested in volunteering get involved?
Yes, yes, yes! Those interested can contact Michelle Petitte, our volunteer coordinator, through our website or email her at email@example.com.
Can you tell us about any upcoming events? Where can readers find out more, get tickets, etc.?
Our website www.altavistabotanicalgardens.org provides details on upcoming events. We will have a Plant Sale on May 12, offering living gifts for Mother’s Day, a 4th of July fundraiser that includes dinner and fireworks at Brengle Terrace (we have the best view in town!), and our 10th Fall Fun Festival will be shared with the community on Oct. 20. This free event has fun for the whole family, including a scarecrow contest, fall crafts, vendors, and food.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
There are many sculptures and art pieces in the gardens bringing together people, nature, and art – our Mission Statement. We have nine sculptures by Ricardo Breceda around the gardens: dinosaurs, giraffes, and the Serpent in the Children’s Garden. Artists appreciate having a home for their sculptures. Many pieces are offered on consignment, but in the meantime, we enjoy sharing them with the community.
Come and visit this hidden gem right here in Vista!