OSI-Baltimore Community Fellow Miriam Avins and her neighbors in Better Waverly toiled for years to turn a vacant plot of land near her home into a lush garden. But when the long-absent property owner unexpectedly agreed to sell the land to a developer, Avins saw that Baltimore needed a land trust that would own community-managed open lands. Thus, the seed was planted for Baltimore Green Space, a nonprofit Avins developed during her recent fellowship to create a land trust for community-managed open space.
Finally, Avins’s seed has borne fruit.
Under a plan approved by the city Board of Estimates, the city will sell vacant land that has been managed by community groups for at least five years–at the price of only $1. The policy lays out several benchmarks that the sites must meet. Community groups can go to Baltimore Green Space, which will do all the bureaucratic leg work and red tape for them.
“This is a really big deal,” says Avins, who was a 2007 Community Fellow, “Now you don’t have to start from scratch for every negotiation.”
At the same Board of Estimates in the fall of 2009, the 44-lot Duncan Street Miracle Garden and the Pigtown Horseshoe Pit were sold to Baltimore Green Space, which will now protect three community-managed open spaces.
Avins spent her fellowship raising awareness of the social, environmental and health benefits of community gardening. She also worked to promote the value of preserving community-managed spaces among city officials from the mayor’s office and the departments of public works, planning and housing and community development. Because of her work, the land trust is now a part of the city’s Sustainability Plan and will benefit individuals, neighborhoods and the city as a whole.
Avins says realizing her dream of a working land trust is a “real thrill.” But now that her effort has paid off, Avins says she will continue to work to make Baltimore Green Space the go-to place for residents who are managing community open spaces.
“I’m not going anywhere,” she says.