Karen Jernigan, chair of Beautification Week, speaks about the many projects that have been completed in the past year in King City. (Sean Roney)

KING CITY — King City Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture and King City Rotary Club jointly hosted the Beautification Week luncheon last week, going over recent and future projects to improve the town and ways everyone can be a part of beautification.

The June 15 luncheon began with a presentation by King City Rotary about its first 5K run, which saw enough turnout to split the funds with an organization they felt was worthy — King City in Bloom (KCIB). Rotarians then presented an oversized check for $1,500 to KCIB chair Allie Cullen.

Karen Jernigan, who has directed Beautification Week since its beginning in 1992, spoke about the history of town improvements as well as the recent projects.

The first recent project she reviewed was the demolition of the old gas station building at the corner of Broadway Street and Vanderhurst Avenue to make way for the Downtown Plaza and the King City Visitor and History Center. The latter will be run by the Chamber.

“Although the lot has been an empty lot for a year, the prospects of a downtown visitor’s center are hopeful,” Jernigan said.

She also praised the landscaping and new mural at Monterey County Dance Theatre.

“I love the way murals have transformed our town and are celebrating what is good about this place,” Jernigan said. “The Salinas Valley Fair mural was underway last year at this time and it has been completed across from the cemetery.”

RELATED: King City’s 2022 Beautification Week Marks 30 Years of Grassroots Effort

Jernigan reviewed new paint to improve buildings around town, as well as drought-resistant landscaping at different locations. She lauded the recent grant money acquired by the city to improve sidewalks, as well as new flowers and plants at different spots, including the Donut King, King City Library and Hestia Coffee.

“Some beautiful new construction has done much to transform our town, including the addition of Hartnell College at the corner of Second and Lynn,” Jernigan said. “The agriculture building at King City High School has turned a weedy school garden on North Mildred Avenue into a state-of-the-art learning center.”

Jernigan also thanked the volunteers of KCIB for a year of cleanup projects and landscape improvements, including the Canal Street off-ramp and entrance to the local golf course.

“They are a testimony to the fact when people unite they can make a positive impact on a town,” she said.

On the topic of keeping plants alive during droughts, Jernigan recommended residents contact the landscape businesses and skilled laborers who could help with such a change.

“If each of us does one thing this month to improve the appearance of our home or our businesses, we could continue to make progress toward making King City a great place to live,” Jernigan said.

Esmeralda Zamora (left) and Cesar Sierra of Reiss Design go over plans for the new King City Visitor and History Center. (Sean Roney)

The featured talk of last Wednesday’s luncheon was “The Role of Agriculture in Beautifying Downtown King City” by Esmeralda Zamora and Cesar Sierra of Reiss Design, the company hired by the city to draw up plans for the new King City Visitor and History Center and other downtown projects.

“This type of community investment really promotes harmonious social order and increases the quality of life,” Zamora said of the center and coordinating its design with the Chamber and city. “One thing that we think is key is to be able to create a lobby space where the Chamber is able to showcase local events and historical archives and pictures.” 

She noted there would be modernization, such as digital screens to have images on rotation. Other design elements highlighted were a computer area for research and a conference room for meetings. 

Zamora said restoring old stuccowork and windows are in the plans, as well.

Another project Zamora commented on was an outdoor revamp to a business at the corner of Broadway and Third streets. The changes there would include an outdoor dining area with plants and a fence for privacy.

“The idea is that we’re going to create local hotspots in our communities so you can shop local, dine local, be local and attract tourists from neighboring parts of the Central Coast, like San Luis Obispo,” Zamora said. “Whether it’s a fresh coat of paint or an upkeep on an existing landscape, or rethinking your own business’s or home’s layout, it’s very important that everyone is invested in our communities and that we have the potential to make it better.”

Guerimina Gutierrez from Waste Management spoke briefly on kitchen pails available at King City Hall, which can be used to collect compostable kitchen scraps to later deposit into resident green waste bins.

This year’s Beautification Week runs from June 18-26, with a lineup of local events, from cleanups to community spirit, as announced during the luncheon.

Liz Hall, also from Waste Management, noted the cleanup taking place June 25 at the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds, where residents can bring a mattress, bulky items or hazardous waste from 8 to 10:30 a.m.

“We will take many items there at the fairgrounds in our roll-off dumpsters,” Hall said. For those who miss the window, Hall noted, “Jolon Road will be open until noon and will accept three bulky items at no cost as long as you have your Waste Management bill or proof of residency with you.”

Cullen announced the July 3 fireworks show will be at the Stampede Grounds at the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds and also spoke about a June 25 town-wide cleanup by KCIB, which will start at the fairgrounds at 8:30 a.m. Volunteers will be given gloves and a map before being asked to contribute 90 minutes of their time for beautification. The cleanup is being held in collaboration with Blue Zones Project of Monterey County.

The “Toast of the Town” Annual Awards Dinner is coming up on Aug. 6, which Cullen said will highlight the efforts of Jernigan and her husband, John, as well as other community leaders.

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Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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