Chollas Creek Crossing was named by the community for its location at the crossroads of four neighborhoods in Southeastern San Diego. Although low in income, these neighborhoods are rich in ethnic diversity, culture and tradition. Out of this strength of neighborhood character came their two-year campaign to turn a city creek parcel plagued by violence, fire and blight into a sacred space for hope and healing. Empowered and inspired by the Nature Sacred Planning Grant that yielded the space design, the residents refused to give up the dream.
Once the battlefield of two competing gangs, Chollas Creek Crossing now serves as a gathering place for many hundreds of residents living around the space, and for the students traversing the space on their way to and from nearby schools. Because the space has not yet been officially transferred to City Parks and Recreation inventory, residents have assumed responsibility for stewardship of their new space. On any given morning, elders are out watering the new plants or emptying the new trash cans. Many of the 300 community volunteers who helped design and build the gathering space continue to volunteer on weekends to keep the creek clean and improve the space. Monthly gatherings are being planned around ethnic cooking demonstrations, poetry and art. A funder has stepped up in support of a 400-foot mural being planned to cover the neighboring barb-wire fence, and a Farmers Market will open at the site in October.
The University of California at San Diego Center on Global Justice has embraced the space for ongoing research and public policy changes focusing on the conversion of blighted areas into spaces where natural resources, quietude and public programming can transform communities. A focus group was conducted to gather qualitative and quantitative data from youth (grades 5 to 12) residing in these Chollas Creek underserved, low-income communities to assess their interpretations of Social Value types (aesthetic, biodiversity, cultural, economic, future, historic, intrinsic learning, life sustaining, recreation, spiritual and therapeutic, safety). It is anticipated that ongoing research will promote Chollas Creek Crossing as a successful model of neighborhood transformation.