The Root 66 Community Garden

San Bernardino County has some of the worst access to healthy food options than anywhere else in the State of California, so it's not surprising that a new study this year found Inland Empire residents overall fatter and unhealthier than the average Californian. But a group of concerned locals are trying to change this.

The mission of the non-profit Root 66 Community Garden is to educate local citizens of all ages about the healthful benefits of gardening, while strengthening and building the community. Its intent is to improve the quality of life and access to healthy food options in the Inland Empire region of San Bernardino County. Some of the ways this non-profit will help is by:

  • Providing garden plots to anyone with an interest in growing their own food
  • Helping low-income families with children
  • Donating food to local food banks and homebound seniors
  • Revitalizing the local viticulture heritage
  • Education in gardening and food production
  • Establishing a Farmer's Market

The Root 66 Community Garden Project rests on about 15 acres next to a water channel and electric easement south of Day Creek and Foothill boulevards, south of Victoria Gardens. 

The land, upon which the garden lies, was deeded to the Upland-based Restorative Justice Center of the Inland Empire, a nonprofit that will oversee the community garden's revenue and upkeep. The Restorative Justice Center was founded in 2000 with a mission to find better ways to repair harm when injustices occur.  The lack of access to healthy food within our community is one of those injustices that can be alleviated by this community garden.  Dee Matreyek, the founder of the Root 66 Garden, has a Ph.D in political science from the Claremont Graduate University.  She has worked as a mediator (juvenile victim offender mediation) and trainer of conflict resolution at the California Institute for Woman, Loma Linda University, Chapman University, and in Kenya.  She is a member of and president-elect of the Rotary Club of Rancho Cucamonga, which has adopted the Root 66 Garden as one of its partnership projects.

Korey was approached through some friends to participate in the Root 66 project and he was immediately intrigued by the vision. Korey understands the struggles in today's society and how people often judge others without taking a hard look in the mirror.  He is adamant about giving back to programs that help enrich and rehabilitate the lives of others that normally would not be given the chance.

"I am excited to participate in this endeavor with Dee and the team of people she has put together," said Korey. "It will be a great setting to show kids and families things they just may never see, touch or feel."

Korey Chirkanian working the Backhoe and Zach Chirkanian, Gary Lyttle, Jacob Lyttle and Dillion Lyttle laying pipe

Korey Chirkanian working the Backhoe and Zach Chirkanian, Gary Lyttle, Jacob Lyttle and Dillion Lyttle laying pipe

As Performance Utility Supply set to help out the project, Korey experienced this exact situation first-hand when his own child expressed an interest in helping. Korey took his son Zach and Zach's friend Jacob to the site and had them work with the team all day, installing the water and power infrastructure. They carried 20' pieces of 4" PVC pipe - well over 100 yards worth. They laid over 400+ feet, glued caps and pushed pipe into the trenches - and all of this in sweltering 99˚ temperatures.

"When we ended the day and got in the truck, Zach looked at me and said 'Dad, that was fricken' miserable!  But, I feel like I got something done." My response was 'Welcome to the real world son. You did a great job working your butt off and I am proud of you'."

Getting the well pump station in place.

Getting the well pump station in place.

The community garden will rely on volunteers of all ages. You can learn more about the garden, plus check out opportunities to donate time or money, on the Root 66 website. Also, follow them on social media to stay up to date with the latest news:

FACEBOOK: The Root 66 Community Garden
TWITTER: @TheRoot66Garden