Transform 100 Vacant Lots into Mini-Parks, Orchards, Gardens, and Edibly Landscaped Green Spaces

by Greg Wilmes | Feb 13, 2013
| 3 Comments

Summary:

I would convert one hundred vacant lots into a system of mini-parks, gardens, orchards, and edibly landscaped green spaces. These vacant lots are scattered throughout the city, with many located in economically depressed areas such as Frogtown, the East Side and the West Side. Most of these lots are now empty because homes on them were torn down after foreclosure during the Great Recession. When untended, they become magnets for trash, eyesores that lower property values, and burden city resources.
The bad times that created these vacant lots also create an opportunity for Saint Paul to have the largest nongovernmental mini-park system in the United States, and would bring tangible benefits to thousands of neighbors for generations to come. I would buy these lots from the city, banks, mortgage pool liquidation companies, and others that now own them. The lots could also be leased on a long term basis. The non-profit that would manage this system would own some lots, lease others, and manage a private “urban farmstead program.” The urban farmstead program would allow individuals and groups to earn ownership of some of the lots following a period of cultivation, using as a model the homestead laws that were used to settle most of America. The tiny orchards, berry patches and community gardens would provide healthy food for neighbors, gardeners, food shelves and others that are working to reduce hunger and improve the diets of needy people in Saint Paul. Lots not suitable for edibles would become mini-parks or tot lot play areas.

About You

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About You

First Name

Greg

Last Name

Wilmes

City

Saint Paul

County

Ramsey

Country

United States, MN, Ramsey County

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Names of others who helped contribute to my idea

How did you hear about the Forever Saint Paul Challenge?

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United States

Your idea

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Title of your idea

Transform 100 Vacant Lots into Mini-Parks, Orchards, Gardens, and Edibly Landscaped Green Spaces

Give us the highlights of your idea for making Saint Paul great (2,000 characters maximum or approx. 250 words)

I would convert one hundred vacant lots into a system of mini-parks, gardens, orchards, and edibly landscaped green spaces. These vacant lots are scattered throughout the city, with many located in economically depressed areas such as Frogtown, the East Side and the West Side. Most of these lots are now empty because homes on them were torn down after foreclosure during the Great Recession. When untended, they become magnets for trash, eyesores that lower property values, and burden city resources.
The bad times that created these vacant lots also create an opportunity for Saint Paul to have the largest nongovernmental mini-park system in the United States, and would bring tangible benefits to thousands of neighbors for generations to come. I would buy these lots from the city, banks, mortgage pool liquidation companies, and others that now own them. The lots could also be leased on a long term basis. The non-profit that would manage this system would own some lots, lease others, and manage a private “urban farmstead program.” The urban farmstead program would allow individuals and groups to earn ownership of some of the lots following a period of cultivation, using as a model the homestead laws that were used to settle most of America. The tiny orchards, berry patches and community gardens would provide healthy food for neighbors, gardeners, food shelves and others that are working to reduce hunger and improve the diets of needy people in Saint Paul. Lots not suitable for edibles would become mini-parks or tot lot play areas.

Website address (if applicable)

Innovation

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What makes your idea different or unexpected? (4000 characters maximum or approx. 500 words)

Most cities face problems associated with vacant lots created during the Great Recession. No one else has thought of turning these lots into a non-profit managed park and garden system. A long term goal is to ultimately return some of the lots to private hands using as a model the homestead laws of the 1800’s. Under those laws, individuals were granted ownership of land on condition that they cultivate and occupy the land for five or ten years. The homestead laws required that apples or pear trees be planted on the land, and required the owner to actually cultivate the land (so the land could not be flipped to speculators). These laws have long been a part of our history, but the ideas have never been applied in a modern urban context.

Impact

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This Entry is about (Issues)

How will your idea make a difference in Saint Paul? (4000 characters maximum or approx. 500 words)

Transforming vacant lots into mini-parks, gardens and edibly landscaped green spaces will bring benefits for generations to come. Transforming a vacant lot into an edibly landscaped green space brings delight to the neighborhood. Children in particular enjoy fresh fruit--it is practically a law of nature that it is impossible to separate a ripe raspberry from a child’s mouth. The revitalization of an empty lot brings hope and inspires neighbors to improve their own properties. Neighbors will naturally want to help restore the beauty and dignity of the neighborhood by volunteering to help maintain the lots. It will also increase surrounding property values, a benefit to neighboring home owners, and improve Saint Paul’s tax base.

Sustainability

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Why do you think people will recognize or remember your idea after it comes to life? How might it inspire others to do something similar in their community? (4000 characters maximum or approx. 500 words)

My novel idea will likely be replicated in other communities. No major city has escaped the problems caused by vacant lots following the Great Recession. Neighborhood revitalization is possible only when neighbors actively participate in the process. My idea gives neighbors both an opportunity and an incentive to help restore beauty and livability to their areas, all the while providing the healthy food and wholesome activity that helps make life great.
Food grown on these edibly landscaped lots would find its way to the city’s farmers markets and food shelves, and would bring smiles to neighbors, young and old, that only a fresh berry or fruit can produce. Who would not be inspired by and remember the joy my idea will bring?

Chandria Efrain said: It will always be something different for all of such things that we have been talking about for quite a while. - Adam LaFavre about this Competition Entry. - 2540 days ago read more >
Jack Ray said: I think this is a good idea. I suspect there are already folks trying to get more vacant lots into community gardens. The East Side Food ... about this Competition Entry. - 2836 days ago read more >
Michael Rex Schumacher said: I think this is a very noble idea. You should reserve one plot where "members" could plant their entry into the Giant Urban Pumpkin ... about this Competition Entry. - 2883 days ago read more >

Greg Wilmes submitted this idea. - 2893 days ago