Land that was once was a patch of weeds has been transformed into a tranquil refuge for people undergoing treatment for substance abuse.

A group of local landscape contractors worked together to install a garden on Thursday behind Bakersfield Recovery Services at 610 Grace St. The businesses donated their time and resources for the garden, which has an estimated value of up to $20,000.

“I didn’t think there would be so many companies coming together for this,” said BRS Executive Director Eric Sanders. “The turnout is just amazing. I think what they’ve done is fantastic.”

The garden includes shrubs throughout as well as some flowers and small trees. Much of the garden is covered with gravel so that tables and chairs can be brought out to provide seating for clients. A concrete walkway is also in place to help clients navigate the garden.

John Lamar owns the land at the Grace Street site and leases it to Bakersfield Recovery Services, a private, nonprofit organization that primarily provides residential treatment to men and women struggling with substance abuse.

Lamar first came up with the idea for the garden around a year ago, shortly after reaching an agreement with BRS for use of the land on Grace Street.

At that time, Lamar said, the area behind the facility was largely just weeds and was not very attractive. After spending some time with BRS as a volunteer, he had a vision to make the area more inviting for clients.

“They can have a space to have some peace and quiet,” he said. “It’s part of the healing process. Whatever it takes to get them healed, that’s what we need to do.”

Lamar mentioned his idea for a garden to Olga See, owner of O. See-em-Bloom Landscaping. See reached out to other area businesses that are members of the California Landscape Contractors Association to see if they would be interested in helping.

“I thought it would be a great little project to enhance our community, to have this serenity garden where people can sit and meditate,” she said.

See was able to get several businesses to participate. However, it took several months for her to coordinate a time during the off-season when everyone’s schedules were aligned to where they could work on the project. The time finally came this week.

“The businesses have been wonderful,” she said. “Everyone’s been willing to help.”

With the garden largely completed on Thursday, Sanders said clients from all of its facilities can begin spending time there Friday.

He said all of the BRS facilities are located a short distance from the Grace Street site, which serves as a hub facility where clients can meet with counselors, board meetings are held and other activities take place.

Tom Pasek, president of the organization’s board of directors, said he believes the garden will go a long way in assisting clients with their recovery efforts by providing a welcoming space where they can relax and reflect and even meet with counselors or family members.

“What it really is, from my perspective, is a mission-fulfillment project,” he said. “This is not just to make the area nice — it’s to lend something to our mission. Our clients, while they’re here, really need to feel a sense of hope.”

Pasek said he would eventually like to see gardens installed at some of their other facilities in the future, using this one as a model.

Joseph Luiz can be reached at 395-7368 or by email at jluiz@bakersfield.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @JLuiz_TBC. 

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