How to Transform a Weedy Dam Levee into a Unique Garden Even If You Only Have a Dream

The Bravo Lake Dream

I'm going to catch a fish here any minute. Get the barby ready!The inspiration to transform an abandoned railroad right-of-way and a weedy dam levee into a beautiful and unique garden facility began more than twenty years ago.

Olga and Manuel Jimenez organized a company of youth volunteers into a group called Woodlake Pride. The impetus was to create an environment for youth that builds self-esteem, confidence, and respect for others while uplifting community moral.

This was done through gardening and beautification projects in various locations around the city of Woodlake. Most see the Woodlake Botanical Gardens (WBG) as the pinnacle of success of Woodlake Pride. The reality is that Olga and Manuel have been growing the youth of Woodlake for nearly thirty years. One can be assured that the community has benefitted and will continue to benefit from the character and citizenship instilled in the hundreds of youth. These young people and the organizers have unselfishly given of their time and energy to create Woodlake Botanical Gardens, a place of serenity and peace.

Woodlake Pride’s Mission Statement

Woodlake Pride, Inc. Solutions Come Through Community Involvement 

Woodlake Pride exists to facilitate community activism through modest beautification projects to improve and sustain the quality of life in Woodlake and the surrounding area.

Woodlake Pride’s Pinnacle of Success

The Woodlake Botanical Gardens (WBG) consist of three theme areas including the Agricultural Science Area, an Ornamental Home Gardens Area and a Habitat Conservation Area.

Woodlake Rose Garden

Open daylight hours every day

Also known as the Rose and Cacti Garden Areas, the rose garden is one of the most beautiful rose gardens in California. The garden has 130 rose varieties and about 3,400 rose plants.

Even though the best time to see the rose gardens is between mid-March and late April, the roses bloom nearly year round. Don’t forget to bring your camera.

Beginning in October Kiwanis stepped in to help the City of Woodlake maintain the Rose Garden under the direction of Chuck House, a former owner of a Rose Nursery and a scientist for Hewlett-Packard. Since that time Kiwanis has partnered with several non-profit organizations, including Woodlake Pride, Master Gardeners, Sequoia Riverlands Trust, Kiwanis Division 18, and Woodlake School District along with several businesses to maintain smaller sections of the garden.

Student helpers still earn Community Service Hours. Drop-in helpers are appreciated on designated workdays.

Woodlake Rose Garden
Woodlake Rose Garden Partners

The rose garden area also includes a cactus garden and collections of other flowers that grow well in our Central Valley California climate conditions.

Agricultural Garden Area

The Agricultural Area, found behind the gate, includes a citrus orchard, several deciduous tree fruit orchards, a tropical fruit orchard, a blackberry and blueberry patch, and several ornamental row vegetable and herb gardens.

This area was designed to stimulate the visitor’s sense of smell, taste, and vision. Bring your children during our tasting events. The visit will be memorable, one day they’ll never forget. Please follow the informational signs so that you are only sampling designated fruit that is ripe and ready to please your taste buds.

Native Plant Area

Open hours vary depending on the season.

The Native Plant Area, beyond the agricultural area behind the gate, contains native plant species particularly those that have attractive foliage or beautiful flowers. Many of the native species are drought tolerant and may be considered for home landscaping. This area also includes a butterfly garden and a lawn shaded by large poplar trees.

Come Grow with Us!

Since its start, the Woodlake Botanical Gardens, also known as the Bravo Lake Botanical Gardens, have been maintained by Woodlake Pride youth volunteers assisted by the City of Woodlake Parks and Recreation staff and equipment. These students work under the direction of Manuel and Olga Jimenez and the Woodlake Pride Board of Directors.

Woodlake Pride Membership

WBG needs your help, now more than ever. Historically, Woodlake Pride has not needed much outside of its student volunteers and the directors to do its work. Under the coordination of Directors, Manuel and Olga Jimenez the labor of student volunteers to maintained the fourteen-acre garden, with some help from the City of Woodlake’s Park and Recreation Department.

It seems like the perfect time has come for change and growth. If the Woodlake Botanical Gardens,  grows to the nationally and internationally recognized status as a botanical garden and not a city park, it needs your help.

“There are, some generally accepted criteria for defining the terms ‘botanic gardens’ or ‘botanical gardens’ that American Public Gardens Association asks our members to follow:

  • The garden is open to the public on at least a part-time basis.
  • The garden functions as an aesthetic display, educational display and/or site research.
  • The garden maintains plant records.
  • The garden has at least one professional staff member (paid or unpaid).
  • Garden visitors can identify plants through labels, guide maps or other interpretive materials.” American Public Gardens Association

At one time Woodlake Pride’s WBG met these criteria. Of course, WBG has been beautiful and open to the public.  In fall it awaits its major time of cleaning, weeding, mulching and pruning, so it is not at its most pristine.

The garden has had labels, but slowly they have disappeared, and it costs to replace them. The Directors have maintained plant records through the years.

WBG has had the enormous good fortune of having the leadership of Manuel Jimenez, Professor Emeritus of the University of California Davis, Small Farm Advisor for the Southern Central Valley. He’s still willing to lead WBG into this new phase of growth.

But even with the joint efforts of the City of Woodlake and Wutchumna Water, which own the two pieces of property, WBG cannot survive without your help. You can join with Woodlake Pride to make a difference for WBC.

Yearly Membership Dues and Benefits

  • Students and Seniors $35
  • Individuals $40
  • Family $45
    • Voting member
    • Eligible to be nominated to the Board of Directors

Donor Levels and Benefits

  • Patron $60
  • Steward $125
  • Sponsor $250
  • Sustaining Member $250
  • Benefactor $1,000
  • Platinum Benefactor > $1,000
    • Voting Member
    • Eligible to be nominated to the Board of Directors
    • Family or business listed on publications
    • Over $500 Family or business will be listed on signs in the gardens for two – five years.


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