The Granada Native Garden exists today mainly because of the imagination, vision, energy and determination of one person, back in 2003-2004. That person was Louann Tung. Louann had the charisma to inspire dozens of volunteers who wanted to help create the Garden, with donations of plants, funds and materials, and especially with hours of hard physical labor reclaiming a dry, desolate, barren field into a lush acreage of plants. These are the same plants that the early settlers found growing in the California paradise when they began arriving 400-500 years ago, but which had nourished the Native Americans with food, medicine, shelter and tools for centuries before. The Granada Native Garden exists today as Louann’s legacy to the people of Livermore and its neigh- boring communities, and to all who are fortunate to discover this unique gift. Sadly, Louann is no longer with us. She succumbed on July 21 after a lengthy struggle with cancer. Her brother Wilson left us this summary of her life:
“Louann Schwager Tung spent her entire life learning, helping, advocating, and seeking while appreciating all of Gods creation. Born in Springfield, Illinois on June 25, 1955, she was raised by nurturing parents Mary and Wilson Schwager in Granite City, Illinois. Louann learned to love nature at the family cabin along the Illinois river and through the gentle guidance of her namesake Aunt Ann. She achieved a bachelors and a masters degree from the University of Illinois-Champaign-Urbana and moved to the Bay Area. There she earned her doctorate in Nuclear Engineering at Cal-Berkeley. Louann spent 40 wonderful years enjoying the many splendors of California. She raised a son, Marcus to whom she was totally devoted. “Louann’s professional life was as an engineer at Lawrence Livermore Lab focusing on nuclear fusion as a power source and later on Magnetic Levitation Systems. Louann worked on many environmental issues and was the driving force behind the creation of the Granada Native Gardens in Livermore. She obtained funding, assembled volunteers and put in countless hours to help make it happen. Louann was also heavily involved in the Friends of the Arroyos and in the fight over the proposed Garaventa Ranch development. Louann traveled several times to India as a devotee of Paramahamsa Nithyananda and it is in her faith that she found peace both in life and in death. “Louann is survived by her son Marcus, her birth mother Lou Ann Grady, her brother Wilson Schwager II and many friends and relatives that showed their great love for her during her life and in her final months. The family wishes to express deep gratitude to all those people who lent Louann emotional, financial and spiritual support during trying times. Special thanks to Bianca, Kodandi, Najjiyya and others in her spiritual community that were there for Louann in so many instances. In memory of Louann, we suggest that you support the earth for the sake of those who will follow us and each day to truly appreciate the time that God has granted you.”
The Birth of the GNG — A Brief History Louann had often passed by this empty field on her bicycle along the Arroyo Mocho across from Granada High School. At the time, there was a concrete walkway across the arroyo, and no fence separating the two properties, allowing students to come and go to the campus from the vicinity of Murrieta Blvd. She noticed how the area was trashed because students often went off campus to eat their lunch and had no place to throw their garbage as they walked back to school. (Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.)
Motivated by the movement to return steelhead trout to the arroyos, and by a request from the S. F. Bay Regional Water Quality Board for proposals for watershed improvements, Louann envisioned a place where students could comfortably eat their lunch and hang out, but also planted with native California plants that required a minimum of water. Thus plans for such a garden were born. Louann enlisted the help of Alrie Middlebrook of the Middlebrook Gardens Nursery in San Jose, local landscape designer Kat Weiss, mosaic artist Christina Yaconelli, a local Eagle Scout troop and numerous others to plan and establish the Garden, including a set of tables highlighted with mosaic designs of endangered species, the steelhead trout, the red-legged frog and the burrowing owl.
Over the subsequent years, additional plants were added to fill in the spaces, and hours of work are spent pulling out the non-native weeds which relentlessly continue to invade the Garden. But the concrete walkway was eventually removed, and a tall steel fence was installed between the high school and the arroyo for security reasons. Thus, the Garden is no longer directly accessible for students to and from the school. But, with on-going maintenance, Louann’s Garden is a remarkable transformation that allows citizens and homeowners to learn about different native plants that can be used to beautify their homes, yards, parks and neighborhoods. Informative markers have been added to remind us how the plants were useful to the Native Americans. The Garden occasionally serves as an outdoor classroom for Granada High School environmental classes. And the Garden is an oasis of natural beauty and tranquillity in the midst of the busy city, where visitors can clear their minds and appreciate the sounds, smells, shapes, colors and patterns of nature that have the ability to restore a healthy sense of balance in our distracted minds.
Quote du jour “A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit.”
– D. Elton Trueblood, author and theologian, former chaplain to Stanford University
Guided Tours of the Granada Native Garden Are Available Are you interested in seeing some of the plants that are described in this Newsletter or in past issues? One or more staff of the GNG are routinely on duty at the Garden on Mondays and Thursdays, roughly between 10:00 AM and 12:00 noon. But it isn’t very hard to arrange a guided visit at other times. If you are interested in scheduling a visit, just email Jim at JIMatGNG@gmail.com . Or if you have any questions or inquiries, please email Jim at the same address! Directions to the Garden and information about volunteering there can be found by clicking one of the buttons at the top of the first page of this Newsletter.
Thank you Jim, for such a beautiful post honoring Louann. We miss her tremendously…
Thanks, Jim, for the lovely article on Louann. She has indeed left a wonderful legacy. Her spirit has a special place at Granada Native Garden and we thank you for keeping it so well maintained and beautiful, continuing Louann’s vision.
Anyone who knew Louann will be sad at this awful news.
What an incredible woman we have lost. Within this cloud of sorrow, however, that beautiful, peaceful public garden that is Louann’s legacy will shine on. Feeling blessed to have known her, worked with her, and learned from her.