Time Bank volunteers clean up the gardens around the library and city hall

By Laura Hagar Rush, Townie Media, April 4, 2022

Janice Gendreau of the Sebastopol Time Bank organized the cleanup. (Photo provided)

On Saturday, April 2, a dozen volunteers from the Sebastopol Time Bank arrived with rakes, hoes, shovels, and clippers to clean up the gardens around the Sebastopol library and Sebastopol City Hall. But they couldn’t just wade in willy nilly because beneath and among the weeds were some very carefully chosen plants.

Though it’s hard to notice it at first glance, there’s an interesting landscape design plan in action on this site. In September 2014, the City of Sebastopol hired Daily Acts and Permaculture Artisans to transform the landscape at Sebastopol City Hall and Library, and create Our Front Yard: Sebastopol Living History Garden. The landscape design, produced by Erik Olsen of Permaculture Artisans, tells the history of Sebastopol in four distinct areas: indigenous plants, food crops, a Luther Burbank-inspired section, and contemporary plantings which focus on water conservation.

Most people don’t know about this feature of the landscaping, in part because the city, facing tight budgets, decided not to spring for the educational signage that had originally been planned for the site.

Also, for much of the last two years, this original design has been obscured by weeds.

Enter the Sebastopol Time Bank. The clean-up project was spearheaded by Time Bank volunteers Janice Gendreau and David Gill, who saw it as an opportunity to give back to the city of Sebastopol, their main funder, and give their volunteers an opportunity to get back together after the long pandemic separation.

“Part of the Time Bank’s mission is to create community here in Sebastopol and in the Sebastopol area, and we do events for the members to get together and get to know each other,” said Gill. “Once they know each other, they’re going to be more comfortable calling upon each other for help, which is the key mission of the time bank.”

The time bank works by people banking “hours,” doing things like babysitting, household organizing, tech help and anything else, and then trading for hours of skills on offer from other Time Bank members.

Gill said he was thrilled by how many people showed up to clean up the library garden.

“I was surprised and pleased. We had a good group in the in the morning, and then just as we got tired, about 12 o’clock, more people showed up to help. And Janice stuck with it and worked with them until three in the afternoon.”

Those volunteers get to deposit their hours into their Time Bank account to exchange later for other services later.

Though it took longer than expected to put the volunteer day together, Gendreau said she would like the Time Bank to do yearly clean-ups at the library.

“I think we could do this once a year,” she said, “Like in November or January, we should get out there again, and we’re open to doing that.”

As for the ethno-historical landscaping, after a few years of neglect, it needs a bit of help.

“They need some new plantings,” Gendreau said.

The city is currently in discussion with Permaculture Artisans, the group that did the original design back in 2014, to create a sustainable maintenance plan for the site.