Growing up from tragedy: for 2005, plant 55 community gardens, and 10,000s of trees... more than that for 2006

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Sat, 09/02/2006 - 23:04.

As I drove from the site of the murder of Detective Schroeder, on West 98th Street, I passed the park dedicated in the honor of the murder of John Jackson and Masumi Hayashi on West 65th, and it occurred to me that there must be a similar park dedicated to Detective Schroeder. This is a fitting way to memorialize the victims of murder, and all violent crime, in our city, as it replaces death with life, and sorrow with joy... it gives people young and old a place to move on in the most healthy possible ways. I do not believe the people of Cleveland want to brush away such tragedy, but rather they want to have a remembrance of those who we lose, and a bright spot to remember that... and they want their neighborhoods to grow stronger so there will be less tragedy there in the future.

Living in the heart of Cleveland, one is strongly affected daily by the best and worst of life here. Living in Ohio City, I am charmed by all the sparkling children playing in yards and a wealth of playgrounds, impressed by vibrant community gardens and urban gardeners, invigorated by walkable neighborhoods worth walking, and pleased to see neighbors walking, and inspired by real quality architecture and history all around. At the same time, I am disgusted by the decay of so much of our urban infrastructure and public and private property, frightened by lead and other toxins on property and in the air and soil, and saddened by surroundings of brutal poverty, living tragedy and senseless violence.

As I reflect upon all of this I realize we in Cleveland need more of the good, and to address the bad as best we may, each day. In the past few weeks, in celebrating a great neighborhood and suffering the deaths of neighbors, I've seen paths to grow good from the bad simply by doing what we do best, in direct response to the worst.

For every murder that occurs in a neighborhood, a community garden, park or playground should be created. For every crime in our communities, a tree should be planted there. In 2005, there were 55 murders and so there should be 55 new community gardens, playgrounds and parks now in response. In 2006, we will likely exceed this number, meaning more than 55 additional community gardens, playgrounds and parks. Add to that trees for 219 rapes, 1,631 for robberies, 1,014 for aggravated assaults, 13,379 for property crimes, 3,897 for burglaries, 6,293 for larceny-theft, 3,189 for motor vehicle thefts, and 251 for arsons... 29,873 new trees for 2005... surely over 30,000 more for 2006. Add more for child abuse, domestic violence, drug offenses, juvenile crime, etc., and a forest city will rise up from the ashes... and no crime will be forgotten.

All these parks, playgrounds, gardens and trees should be placed in the neighborhoods where the crimes occurred, as the crime is a response to blight and desperation in these communities and trees, parks, gardens and playgrounds will reduce the blight and desperation. The workforce to do the heavy work in creating these new parks, gardens and playgrounds should be those causing harm, but worthy of work release, probation or supervised site work. They should have the opportunity to do good to redeem themselves for their bad, and to participate in the regeneration of the communities they have previously acted to tear apart. They should learn better skills and of stewardship for our land... they should learn to plant gardens and grow their own food, and to eat food grown by their own hands. The tons of food grown right here in our community will feed all.

Each site should feature public art by area artists, and they should be paid for the art - a budget of $1,000 per sculpture for 55 sites is a negligible cost to spread art around the community and allow artists to share in the celebration of our urban life at its best... I am confident there will be plenty of artists thrilled to participate. Parkworks seems best positioned to oversee this initiative, as they already do such good related work around the community. Cleveland Public Art, the Botanical Gardens, Shaker Nature Center, Holden Arboretum, city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County and other public service institutions will all need to help out - corporations will be asked to sponsor sites - foundations should chip in - the sustainability will come from the ongoing living support of neighbors served by the assets, who will enjoy the nature, flowers, produce and exercise, and art, along with the satisfaction of seeing their community rebound from death with life.

Don't just think about this, but go to the John Jackson and Masumi Hayashi park on West 65th and consider the benefit to Cleveland and NEO of there being 40 such sites... find a community garden and consider the value of 40 more... watch the kids enjoying one of our many playgrounds and see 40 more... sit under a maple and picture 10,000s more all over town... and then consider how much greater awareness the 100,000s of men, women and children of our community would have for life and nature as a result, and perhaps how much less inclined our communities would be to tolerate and perpetrate crime and evil.

Now, what do you think about this?

Great Ideas : priming the way for implementation

I love the concept and the ramifications and opportunities created would be tremendous should such a program be implemented effectively and comprehensively.  There are so many valuable points of integration and opportunities to close systemic loops if one takes a concerted, holistic, and integrated approach with this effort.  You cite many of the benefits and if bears a concise synopsis of not only these but integration of other important points.  When one views this systemically it becomes a compelling story and foundation for the implementation plan to make this a reality.


Let's start my revisting and refining all the benefits of community garden proliferation and accomplishing it through a collaborated and concerted approach.


1.  Community gardens enhance the aesthetics of a place and raise the property value

     on which they are created.


2.  They create work opportunities that can be obtained cost-effectively but create

     value for the participants.   Examples (taking an intergenerational perspective)

     Seniors from area community centers, nursing homes, etc.   Thus a foundation like

     Macgregor could become involved in funding opportunity.   Young would learn from

     old and vice versa.  Best practices could come from the Botanical Garden (Learning

     Garden) and experts like Maurice Small.


3.  Love the second-chance opportunity for criminals to work, learn new skills, and add

     value to the community which they detracted from.  The opportunity for redemption

     and potential transformation through the company of good people presents itself.


4.  The opportunity to create sustainable revenue streams - selling the organics at area

     food markets like Coit Rd Market in East Cleveland recoups investment cost.  Similarly

     introduction of smart composting and vermicomposting strategies creates

     a replinishable supply of organic fertilizer and 'super-growth' plant food in the case

     of worm castings.   Excess production creates a saleable product.


5.  Planning and infrastructure issues will become paramount.  The soils should be

     sampled and tested to assure minimization of toxicity (lead, etc) and optimal

     conditions (Ph, etc).   Water issues can be supported with the appropriate use of

     rainwater barrels and  the necessity to add quality topsoil will require either some

     seed funding or willing corporate donors of in-kind high grade soil  (we have a few

     of these contacts locally).   These soil and water measures can be stored in open

     source  GIS databases which allow for the transparent information sharing

     and adaptability (modularity) capable of mapping  and planning optimal solutions.


6.  Public art is a fantastic idea.   Further enriches the aesthetic appeal and punctuates

     the 'memorial' aspect you've mentioned that could create naming for each garden

     and give the locale a hallowed and sacred quality that commands respect.   The

     stewardship of locals will be essential in maintaining and enriching these gardens to

     ensure their longevity and growth.   The aesthtic appeal and opportunity to 

     learn and engage attracts a diverse participant base which gains value through

     communal participation in an educative and intergenerational experience.


7.  Comprehensive , cross-functional collaboration will be paramount.   Buy-in and            

     support needs to come from civic, nonprofit, corporate, educational institutions

     and citizen sources.  This is truly regional and cooperative environmental

     stewardship and unites all toward a common goal of richer, healthier, and more

     vibrant communities.


8.  The positive  environmental impacts are numerous.  Ensuring toxicity remediation,

          facilitating  the use of natural fertilizer (i.e. compost) to reduce toxic additions,  enhancing                 the air,  soil and water quality,  increasing the biodiversity of plant and animal species,

      and providing attractive greenspace , just to name a few.


This is just an initial primer - a detailed implementation plan based on collective

mapping and outreach needs to be developed next.   This is already in the works, but

if anyone has thoughts to add or energy to provide  there is no better time than now!


Let's grow healing gardens in East Cleveland

I've spoken with Abu Alli (East Cleveland CIO), Councilwoman Thomas (East Cleveland Ward 2) and Mayor Brewer and all are supportive of community gardens for East Cleveland. The Coit Farmers Market is there to absorb produce, and perhaps the Hot Sauce Williams family, not to mention a dense population needing fresh food, and Case is nearby and could perhaps commit to using some of the produce in their food services, as well as volunteering support. Councilwoman Thomas is in charge of the property commitee for East Cleveland and land bank property could be used. I'm sure MacGregor would chip-in. There are lots of seniors who would love the effort... and other community members would dive right in.... artists, no problem.

I can't find statistics on the number of murders in East Cleveland in 2005 or 2006 but I know it is a low number - other violent crimes as well - so connecting the memorial and growth concepts here would be immediately possible. Let me know when you have people organized to help out and I'll connect you with the community leaders who will take care of their side of the effort.

Disrupt IT