Everyone knows that Baltimore has a plague of vacant lots that attract nuisances such as dumping, drug use, and crime. Some folks even do something about it, turning a vacant lot in their neighborhood into a community vegetable garden, pocket park, or even horseshoe pit.
If you are troubled by a vacant lot near your home, why not green it with your neighbors? To get started, contact the Community Greening Resource Network or Power in Dirt, and check out these resources. And if you already have an established green space and want to see it last the ages, contact my organization, Baltimore Green Space.
But why green? And why involve the whole neighborhood?
Community-managed open spaces benefit their neighborhoods and the entire city in many ways—social benefits such as a place for neighbors to meet each other and work together, reducing or eliminating dumping and crime, and access to a bit of nature in the city; health benefits such as exercise and fresh produce; and environmental benefits such as a place for migratory birds to rest, and a place for stormwater to sink into the soil rather than wash pollution into the Chesapeake Bay. There’s no doubt that the people who tend community open spaces enrich the life of their neighborhoods.
Yet such green spaces are too often considered a marginal use of the land, something acceptable until a new building is put in. And that means that the benefits of community-managed open spaces can be lost very quickly.
A simple solution is to preserve community-managed open spaces in a land trust, like Baltimore Green Space. The gardeners still own the site in spirit—they do the work and enjoy the benefits. The land trust, however, holds the deed, deals with any tax issues, and also provides liability insurance and technical assistance. The neighborhood gets to keep its treasured open space, and all of Baltimore benefits.