- Author: Edith Warkenine
On Saturday, April 27, 2019, fifteen Inyo-Mono County Master Gardeners served as volunteers for the 50th annual Manzanar Pilgrimage. Each year since 1969, the Manzanar Committee has sponsored the Pilgrimage. It is estimated that more than 2,000 people attended this year to honor and remember Japanese who were incarcerated in this remote spot during World War II, and to learn from what happened at Manzanar so that we may apply those lessons to the present day.
Many of those held at the camp worked hard to create a little beauty in their surroundings by creating gardens and tending the orchards. These are now in the process of being restored. Inyo and Mono county UC Master Gardener volunteers assisted the National Park Service, which hosts the annual event, by greeting visitors at specific gardens and sharing stories and information about the gardens. Master Gardeners were stationed at Arai Pond, a representative barracks garden, Merritt Park—the largest community garden—and the mess hall gardens at Blocks 9, 15 and 22. Volunteers spent a considerable amount of time before the Pilgrimage studying the Manzanar gardens and orchards and the Manzanar Garden Management Plan.
This event was the first stage of the Master Gardener's Manzanar Project. Over the summer, Master Gardeners will be working with NPS staff to begin docent tours of the gardens and orchards, to conduct research on other barrack gardens, and on the Manzanar guayule project. (Guayule was grown at Manzanar during the war as a potential source of natural rubber.)