Gardopia Looks to “Make America Green Again” at Vote Earth Day! Bike Ride
While throngs of San Antonians flooded downtown for Saturday night’s Flambeau parade, eco-centric cyclists bicycled through San Antonio’s Eastside neighborhood streets Saturday afternoon as part of Gardopia Gardens’ “Vote Earth Day!” event. SA’s bright Fiesta-like weather welcomed the cyclists and warmed their backs as they glided down the sun-soaked asphalt on a tour of three different community gardens. The first two stops were Ella Austin Community Center and Woodard Park, where Gardopia sponsors their on-site community gardens. The last stop on the bike ride was Gardopia’s home base located on North New Braunfels Street.
Once a location known for rampant crime and unlawful loitering, the lot on which Gardopia exists has witnessed a rebirth in recent years. Instead of being a breeding ground for drugs, gangs, and violence, the space is now lined with rows of green, ripe vegetables. “We have our physical location on a (previously) vacant lot,” described Stephen Lucke, founder of Gardopia. “One of the previously most dangerous vacant lots. A lot of crime. And we’ve been able to change that atmosphere and that space, so we’re trying to continue to make San Antonio a healthier, more environmentally sustainable, safer, more community driven space to live in.”
David Lamas, an avid biker and notable Houston social media influencer visiting San Antonio for the weekend, decided to go on Gardopia’s bike ride on Saturday. With his trademark “I Love Selena” license plate hanging from the bottom of his backpack, Lamas rode with the group through the neighborhoods, planting crops and helping community members with the gardening work along the way. “I like the interaction that we’ve come across with the kids and the community and I see they seem interested and it’s super nice,” said Lamas. “I like the idea of community gardens and the fact that they help with eliminating food deserts. That’s the most important thing I think.”
After planting vegetables and garden plants in each location and spending some time walking the grounds, Lucke, Lamas and the other riders made their way to another type of garden…Burleson Yard Beer Garden. Burleson, which has its own small garden tucked towards the back of their patio area, partnered with Gardopia on Saturday to help promote green initiatives and sustainable living in San Antonio. Featuring several pop-up tents, eco-friendly businesses posted up to showcase their products and offerings to locals and tourists alike who sought an escape from the inundation of Fiesta events around town.
On the patio, situated next to the Gardopia community garden and the children’s play area, a small wooden stage hosted a live-recorded version of poet, artist, and public speaker, Kinyo’s, podcast. The charismatic Kinyo sat atop the stage interviewing Lucke, Dominic Dominguez, and Kendalle Wexler of Gardopia Gardens about their work to incorporate sustainability into the community and other efforts that are being made to affect environmental change within the city. Easily fielding questions from Kinyo, Lucke and his Gardopia crew gave their opinion on the state of sustainability both in San Antonio and the nation, and talked passionately about the work they are doing to use gardening to help impoverished communities and reduce the amount of food deserts in the city.
After Lucke and his team of volunteers finished their on-stage interview, they dispersed and mingled with the audience. With a tent set towards the front of the venue, volunteers wearing Gardopia’s signature “Make America Green Again” t-shirts answered questions from attendees and sold promotional items to raise money for their nonprofit. “We had an obesity epidemic and we had climate change and I thought that gardening and garden based learning could directly address both of those issues that we have as a nation and in the world,” stated Lucke as he handed out t-shirts and promotional cups with the Gardopia and Burleson logos emblazoned across the side. “I just think that we are at a point where we have to make a change in our individual lives, and as we individually make changes, we can locally and globally make changes.”