Local News

Alpine’s Beloved “CHIRP” Garden Club & Sage & Songbirds Tour is Closing its Doors

CHIRP Garden Club Logo Header

The status of CHIRP… By Maureen Austin

December 21, 2015 – After 19 years of serving Alpine and the San Diego area by helping people garden for winged wildlife, CHIRP is closing its doors*.  As with many non-profit organizations, especially small, grass roots groups such as ours, the past several years have been especially difficult for us. I feel it is time for me–the founder and executive director–to move on.

I’m happy to say that we have achieved many successes in fulfilling our mission.**  Here are a few highlights:

Chirp - Garden Tour 2015 Large  posterAREA IMPACT – I am extremely grateful to the community of Alpine for its 19 years of support of the Sage & Songbirds Festival and Garden Tour, our landmark event.  We truly put Alpine “on the map” with the gorgeous gardens created in harmony with nature and focus on birds and butterflies.  For 18 years, people came from throughout the county, state, and even other states, to tour the gardens that YOU lovingly created and opened to share for the 3 days of our annual event.  The Alpine tour is widely-recognized as one of the best in the county because of YOU, and the caliber of gardens that you created.

NATIONAL IMPACT – Our national claim to fame is securing Alpine’s designation of America’s FIRST Community Wildlife Habitat” by the National Wildlife Federation. It is my hope that you, as a community, will continue to nurture this prestigious recognition so as not to lose your place!  (I will be happy to assist in transfer of NWF’s annual status report accounting to another person or organization. Please contact me if interested.)


Gardens on the blvd logoLOCAL IMPACT – The past few years were spent leaving our mark on the downtown Alpine community, with our “Gardens on the Boulevard” project.***  In CHIRP’s true grassroots style, we raised $24,268 through a fundraiser and private donations, in order to “make lemonade from lemons” and beautify what had been demolished by construction of the Sunrise Power Link.  (We received NO funding from the County, nor from SDG&E, for this beautification effort.)

Monarch Butterflies_optBUTTERFLIES! – It is my hope that when you remember CHIRP, you will think of the thousands of butterflies we released each year during our Sage & Songbirds and Monarch  Mania events.  Alpine is a beautiful town, and has been enhanced with the winged creatures that you all nurture by gardening for winged wildlife. I firmly believe that together we have increased the population of butterflies in our community. Please keep up the great work!  (Did you know that every one of those butterflies we released was raised in my bathroom?!?!  …. a true and little known fact.)

ON A PERSONAL NOTE – I have lived and breathed CHIRP, day and night, from before its official conception in January of 1996.  Much blood, sweat and tears, along with great joy, have been mine.  I do feel as though a part of me is dying as we put it to rest.  On the other hand, I’m excited about what the future holds for my husband and I….. Last month, we closed escrow on our home of 35 years in Alpine, and purchased two small properties in the desert town of La Quinta, CA, (Palm Springs area) in a charming, historical area called “La Quinta Cove.”  It’s an eclectic community nestled among magnificent mountains, with hiking and biking trails just outside our front door! One of the “casitas” will be our primary residence (it is currently being rehabbed) and the other home, a mile away, has been a thriving vacation rental property (VRBO), and we plan to continue in this venture.  We will begin renting it to vacationers, once our casita is ready to move in to.

We are within walking distance of historic “Old Town La Quinta”, with a weekly farmer’s market and dozens of unique shops, restaurants and services. Weekly events and festivals abound. It’s a complete lifestyle change for us and we are thoroughly enjoying it! And the very best part–we are now close to our new grandson (and his parents), which was the primary reason for our move.

We have many wonderful memories of our time in Alpine, raising our children there and the friends we made. Please keep in touch.  And if you are in our area, please reach out to us!

Yours truly, Maureen Austin

Maureen & Wallace Austin


*The not-for-profit corporation known as CHIRP, or the Center to Instill Respect and Preservation for Garden Wildlife, Inc., is being dissolved according to requirements set forth by the IRS and State of California, by unanimous approval of the CHIRP Board of Directors in its final meeting held November 10, 2015.

**MISSION:  CHIRP is dedicated to the preservation and enjoyment of birds, butterflies, and other creatures of habitat, through hands-on and interactive programs and gardens.

*** Every penny of the $24,268 raised for Gardens on the Boulevard was literally put back into the ground along Alpine Blvd.  Plants were purchased at WHOLESALE prices, all garden design plans were DONATED, and all labor was DONATED (with the exception of one paid laborer who dug holes in ground that was too hard for me or other volunteers to dig/plant in).  Again, let me be clear that not a penny was paid in administrative costs to anyone, including me, for the dozens and dozens of hours contributed to the project.  Twelve gardens of varying sizes were installed along Alpine Blvd., and at two other “non-Boulevard” sites.  If you are interested in a detailed accounting of funds collected and spent, please contact me via email at maureen@chirp.org.

P.S.  There has been some interest in re-establishing a garden club, such as the one previously organized by CHIRP.  If you are interested in Alpine having a garden club please contact Babs Rosenberg at babra.rosenberg@gmail.com or 619-722-6990; or

Hilde Hinchcliff at hildehinch@att.net or 619-659-8707.

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  1. Awwww I will miss you!! Congrats on your new move, sounds like a wonderful new adventure!!! Take care and Thank You for everything you did for our town. Chris Michaels -Chic Boutique

  2. All the best to you as you move on to the next phase of your life! CHIRP will be sorely missed in Alpine. The annual garden tours really put us on the map.

  3. Sad to see Wally and Maureen go. Betty and I have know them for at least 42 years and they lived just down the street from us. I first met Maureen when she was the editor of The Alpine Sun and I gave her some stories as I was a Detective for the Sheriff’s Office. They are a fine couple and Alpine will truly miss them. Good luck Wally and Maureen in your new life in the desert. Dick and Betty Rabell .

  4. I remember those early days, Maureen, including fun shopping at The Habitat Hut. Thank you for all you have done for Alpine over the years. Wishing you fabulous new adventures and many, many happy, healthy years in your new home and community.

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