El Oasis used to be a junkyard. That’s why after 12 years in the garden we are still digging up glass, nails, former mafia associates, etc. To think that at one point El Oasis was a junkyard, is quite remarkable if you look at it today. It speaks to the amazing things communities can accomplish when they come together for a larger purpose.
Long-time Denver Urban Gardens staff will tell you that El Oasis is their favorite garden in the network. By selling this land, they are selling a critical piece of their origin story. Without this garden, I don’t think they would be where they are now as a network of 180+ gardens and a nationally recognized organization.
Pamela Frazee was the garden founder and helped to fulfill the original land donor’s wish of transforming the donated land into a garden. Pamela is a gardener, has the best hat in the garden, and who we can all thank for El Oasis (the Godmother of El Oasis?!).
Trini and Sam Zamudio were long-time garden leaders, relentless stewards, and gardeners up until a few years ago. As Mary Fajardo, Trini’s daughter, stated the garden has been a source of happiness and pride for Trini and Sam, a key part of the Zamudio’s family’s history, and the place where Trini connected and cultivated a community of gardeners.
Trini’s Daughter, Mary, had this to say: “My Mom gardened at the El Oasis for over 40 years (before it had a name). The El Oasis happens to be one of the oldest community gardens in Denver. Although she can no longer garden, at 92 years of age, she still enjoys immense peace and joy from watching the current gardners do what she loved to do the most ~ grow nutritious food and socialize. I am so sorry that the City of Denver is willing to give up the well being of its citizens in the name of urban development. Many a childhood memory has been made by family gardening at El Oasis and many a person has been fed by its fruits and vegetables. Another concern has been that this transaction was completed without transparency. How sad that DUG could not engage the community in deciding what was to become of its COMMUNITY garden. Please reconsider a decision that will impact the community for generations.”
In 2008, after Trini could no longer lead the garden, Chris Armijo agreed to be garden leader with little gardening experience. One of his favorite first memories was the amazing crops several Hmong families grew in the garden (and A LOT of them). Lori Potter (current gardener) joined Chris as a garden leader and was instrumental to us evolving the garden. El Oasis and Chris were very lucky to have her as part of the team. Julie Spear (former gardener) joined us later and was very passionate about gardening and the garden (she even did some volunteer work for DUG). Michelle Cyr (current gardener) joined the garden leader team after the Bookbinding Garden was became the bar Recess. She brought welcomed new ideas, energy, and a great laugh to our team to help keep us going.
After 10 years of leading the garden, we passed the shovel to our next crop of leaders including Alan Olds, Ingrid Lee, Kateri Swiss, Lindsey Tanner, and Ted Richardson. Thanks to all of them for making needed changes and improvements to the garden. Alan and Ted now lead us through this unfortunate time of the garden history. El Oasis is a Northside landmark. In our short time in the garden, we have developed lasting connections, watched families grow, learned a lot from people like Mike Brickner and Rutilio, connected to land in amazing ways, was humbled a lot, and seen a lot of change in people and in the neighborhood. And while the DUG board sees El Oasis as their only path to sustainability, which it certainly is not, its much more than that. It is, as the name implies, an important sanctuary for families, friends, and food.
Denver Urban Gardens (DUG) was founded in 1985 and El Oasis was one of the first 3 gardens in the organization. On Dec 29, 1988, a neighborhood resident sold the El Oasis land for $1.00 to DUG. They thought donating this land to DUG would be a valuable contribution to the community. They were assured by DUG representatives that this land would remain vacant and used in perpetuity as a garden. They were trusting, and perhaps naïve in not obtaining legal counsel to insure that the promises of DUG would be kept, but, without the benefit of hindsight they had no reason to believe that this non profit organization, dedicated to what they considered an admirable mission worthy of support, would ever sell the gardens to a developer.
El Oasis is the largest urban garden in the lower highlands. it is located on 35th Street between Quivas and Shoshone.