Who We Are: The History and People of GLG
History of the "Tacoma Urban Land Trust"
In the early 1970s two tireless social activists raised on ‘The Hill’ (Hilltop), Bob Gallucci and Bill (Bix) Bichsel, S. J., met, and with the help of others in the community, formed the ‘G Street Community’. Although they hadn't known each other growing up, both Bob and Bill remembered Hilltop as diverse, lively and close knit, where neighbors were always available to neighbors – even when struggling.
Bob had returned to the neighborhood after serving in World War II, working as a physical therapist and teaching. Bix, taught school and served as Dean of Students at Gonzaga University. Both were alarmed by the challenges of the 70s: homelessness, the displacement from state institutions of the mentally ill, as well as the shocking effects of a growing drug culture. The old neighborhood was in serious trouble!
Persuasive and persistent fund raisers and leaders, Bob and Bix involved many people in the development of the community. The founding of the Martin Luther King Jr. Ecumenical Center, the Hospitality Kitchen, the Food Connection, the Neighborhood Clinic and Neighborhoods First are all examples of their success. At 14th and G Street they merged and then re-modeled two old houses creating a twelve bedroom house of hospitality called Guadalupe House, which eventually became the Tacoma Catholic Workers. This "campus" included the Irma Gary House, the Lewis Jones House and Jean's House.
Later Gene Wick began cultivating the terraced property just north of Guadalupe House and shared the results with his street friends, Bix and Carrie Little, founder of Mother Earth Farm. They picked up on Gene's idea and talked neighbors and surrounding property owners into letting them, with other volunteers, cultivate 4.2 acres of unused, neglected green space. They founded the first Community Supported Agriculture operation (CSA) in Tacoma, serving about 40 customers weekly.
In 2001, the Tacoma Urban Land Trust was formed as a 501(c)3 in order to "acquire, preserve, promote and maintain green space in the Hilltop neighborhood." The TULT focus became the support and maintenance of two properties. One, located on the corner of South 18th and South G Streets, was called "La Grande Community Garden." The second was located at S 14th and G Streets and called the "Gallucci Learning Garden." La Grande is now called Viet Huong and has a unique character, largely shaped by the Vietnamese gardeners who raise their vegetables using the same time tested practices used in their homeland. The TULT has made this resource available to community members to grow their own food since early 2002.
Gallucci Learning Garden Project
In 2010, Tacoma Urban Land Trust broke ground on this unique property. The Gallucci Learning Garden is an effort in engaging the broader community. The new site offers a visually stimulating garden environment with spaces designed for garden-based learning and a beautiful community gathering place. The community is invited to participate in and learn about all phases of local food production including composting, planting, cultivating and harvesting. Prospective gardeners can learn about preparing, cooking and preserving their produce for winter use. People may take advantage of workshops led by expert gardeners in addition to working as volunteers in the garden. These learning experiences are open to children, teens, adults and seniors. Cross-cultural and cross-generational mentoring enables seniors to share their lifetime of gardening experiences with inexperienced and younger gardeners and allows those of different cultures to share gardening techniques unique to their heritage.
A major part of the site is utilized as an outdoor classroom where students participate in hands on learning, the fertile soil substituting for a blackboard. Ornamental food garden concepts will illustrate how creatively designed food gardens can visually enhance homes and neighborhoods. Sustainable gardening techniques will be demonstrated throughout the site in addition to a rain garden and other ecologically sound design features, making the garden an example of environmental stewardship. The community gathering place provides a place for neighborhood activities, from potlucks to outdoor movies in summer. Construction of the Gallucci Learning Garden Project was made possible by a Green Partnership Grant from the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation in partnership with Pierce Conservation District, Tacoma/Pierce County Health Department, area businesses and members of the community.
Environmentally sustainable gardening, a growing concern about the safety of our food supply, increased awareness of the benefits of growing our own food, and the importance of healthy diet and exercise in reducing obesity, are all issues that Tacoma Urban Land Trust is interested in and are being addressed with programs planned for the Gallucci Learning Garden.