Garden volunteer Diane Ackerman pulls back some Indian Ricegrass to inspect the blooms of an Evening Primrose. [Photo by Heila Ershadi / Moab Sun News]

Sara Melnicoff loves to see the lizards dart out around the native plants growing on a once-barren hillside at the Community Recycling Center.

“It’s magic,” she said.

Back in April, a driver crashed through the fencing at the recycling center, necessitating the replacement of the fence. The hillside below was stripped bare in the process.

But Melnicoff, who is the executive director of local nonprofit Moab Solutions, saw an opportunity. She knew of an area in Spanish Valley that was full of native grasses and was scheduled to be bulldozed due to new construction.

She coordinated with Utah Native Plant Society (UNPS) members to rescue some of the plants, transplanting them to the hillside at the recycling center. Since then, Melnicoff and UNPS members Diane Ackerman and Sarah Topp have been tending the plants, each taking one day per week to hand-water the garden.

Their efforts are paying off: bumblebees, butterflies and lizards can now be found enjoying the space.

Ackerman said she also enjoys watching the lizards interact, some chasing other lizards away so they can have the water to themselves.

Ackerman said the group is planning a work party for the last Saturday in October to further improve and beautify the garden.

While further details will be made public closer to the event, invited anyone interested in participating in caring for the garden to contact her at