By Jeff Zucker
This past weekend, we at Manzanita Village celebrated the twentieth anniversary of Northern Arizona’s first and only Cohousing community. For those of you who are not familiar with the term ”cohousing”, suffice it to say that it is a community that is created by the people who live there. How the community manifests itself is entirely dependent upon the individuals who “show up” to create it.
When I called for the first meeting twenty years ago, I had no idea who my eventual neighbors would be. All I had was a vision of a better way to live, and the faith that others shared my view. I saw a walkable community of neighbors who all knew each other, who shared some meals and laughter together, and who cared about each other’s well being. I saw a place where elders and children could exchange their own special wisdoms, where nature was an integral component of daily life and where we would grow a significant portion of our own organic food.
Today, all of those visions have come into being. Manzanita Village is one mile from the Courthouse Square, and we also have one mile of walkable trails throughout the forested areas within our own community. Our homes are gently clustered on four of our twelve acres, and our front porches face a pedestrian street, where people of all ages and walks of life can interact. We have a Village Green where we congregate for picnics and cartwheels, and a building that we call our “Common House”, where we break bread together, plan for our future, and tell a joke or two. Much of our food is grown organically in our community gardens and green house. We are even eating frozen peaches that are still left over from last year’s harvest.
As an architect, I tend to look at the physical aspects of a community, such as the buildings, the spaces between the buildings and how they are all interconnected. However, one of the things that I could not have envisioned, was the quality of the people who have come together to form this thing called “community”. We not only participate fully in the governance of our own community, but we also reach out into the greater Prescott community, and beyond. The list of activities to which our residents contribute is extensive, but to name a few, they include: Habitat for Humanity Builders, meals for the Prescott Area Women’s Shelter, members of the Citizens Water Advisory Group, readers for the blind, choir singers, artists, Shakespearean actors, fire wise assessors, master gardeners, peace activists, and even a Prescott City Councilwoman.
I see the people of Manzanita Village as the creators of a collective dream that is slowly becoming a reality. After twenty years, we have survived the infant stage, and the teenage years of development. We have had our share of tantrums and pimples. We have learned together and grown together over the years, and I know that, what we are creating here today will last beyond a hundred years. And, so it is on this Earth Day, 2014 that I express my eternal gratitude for the people who have “shown up” to create a community that is in harmony with our nature.
(Manzanita Village can be found at www.manzanitavillage.com or at 258 Benjamin Drive, Prescott, Az)