City officials, community members, family, and friends gathered Friday, Jan. 30, in the parking lot of the Shell station at Valencia and Naranjo to unveil Woodlake’s newest mural. Colleen Mitchell-Veyna’s latest mural masterpiece that now adorns the west side of an adjacent commercial building pays tribute to Manuel and Olga Jimenez, co-founders of the Bravo Lake Botanical Gardens, California’s first agricultural botanical garden.
The Bravo Lake Botanical Gardens, located a few hundred yards southeast of the mural, was officially opened to the public in 2004. Today the 13.9-acre property has evolved into the premier year-round attraction of Woodlake.
The original garden project evolved from Woodlake Pride Inc., a group that Olga and Manuel Jimenez started to involve youth in beautification projects around town.
“We wanted to give local youth a chance to do something other than watch TV, hang out, or get into trouble,” Manuel said.
Those piecemeal projects evolved into a more grandiose concept to beautify a strip of vacant railroad right-of-way adjacent to Bravo Lake. Manuel’s sketch for an agricultural garden became a professional landscape plan that garnered a federal Transportation Enhancement Activity (TEA) grant, and the dream of having a publicly owned botanical garden became a reality.
For Olga and Manuel, it’s what they are doing in their retirement years — working in the garden daily and coordinating the seasonal chore schedules and special events that occur year-round.
“We could never repay the kindness of all who have contributed in so many facets — spreading the word and letting those know who want to help,” said Manuel. “The individuals, the nurseries; we always have everything we need. Now it’s a preserved place with great potential for all to come, especially the youth, to learn about resource conservation and experience these growing, living things with all their senses.”
At the dedication, presided over by Ramon Lara, city manager, the Jimenezes were honored for their hard work, accomplishments, and dedication to the beautification of Woodlake.
The Bravo Lake Botanical Gardens site is open daily and there is no charge for admission. There is a one-mile walking path through the heart of the gardens, which are currently in winter slumber, but will be filled with a palette of colorful buds and blooms as the weather warms.