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Communities Mobilize to Create Healthy Neighborhood Gardens

Loyola Neighborhood News: Lake Shore Campus - V3, I8

In Edgewater and Rogers Park, community activism takes divergent yet equally vital twists on creating healthy green spaces one block at a time. Loyola University Chicago, as a community partner and grassroots organizing body give resources and support.

At a Loyola-owned lot at 6300 N Broadway, The Peterson Garden Project and the Edgewater North Neighborhood Association have developed a raised-bed community garden called Vedgewater. The garden affords local residents, who might not other-wise have the space, an opportunity to grow their own fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs etc. while building community and taking part in the urban “grow your own” movement.

Troy McMillan, member of Edgewater Neighbors North block club has been championing the cause for the past two years. After meeting LaManda Joy, founder of The Peterson Garden Project after her presentation at Loyola’s North Lake Shore Earth Day in 2010, McMillan sought out a partnership that would bring an edible garden to fruition in Edgewater.

According to McMillan, building community is her number one goal.  “A reporter asked me what I hope to accomplish at the end of the growing season and think the reporter was thinking I would say 20 pounds of tomatoes or 30 pounds of lettuce. All that would be nice but what I want to see accomplished, at the end of the growing season if not before, is that community neighbors and gardeners know each other’s names.”

The partnership has been extremely fruitful. The support of Alderman Patrick O’Connor and significant land donation by the university for the period of two growing seasons has enabled the creation of over 185 raised beds. Gardeners pay a small program fee to participate in the garden.

The demand for plots at the new garden was overwhelming. Within days of opening registration to members of the block club, Sheridan Road condo associations and mentions in Alderman Osterman’s e-blast, all available plots were sold out. The Peterson Garden Project also offers classes for garden newbies or those who want to learn how to grow their own food at Vedgewater. Attendees do not have to be gardening at Vedgewater to participate in classes and events.

While the garden is wonderful for green-thumbed local condo and apartment dwellers, those less fortunate will benefit through the Grow to Give program. 15 beds are designated to support growing fresh vegetables for donation to Edgewater’s own Care for Real.

Joy, has built a model for successful garden creation and management through the Peterson Garden Project, a 501c3, which has launched six gardens to date, including Vedgewater. “Community gardens are 10% garden and 90% community. When people see the expanse of Vedgewater they’re not seeing the most magical part – the positive relationships that are being formed. That’s the real wonder of a project like this – how people get together and change their neighborhoods and their relationships for the better.” Most recently, Joy has received the endorsement of Mayor Rahm Emanuel for a victory garden project she will soon launch in North Park on what was formerly a vacant city-owned lot.

For more information about Vedgewater, contact Troy McMillan at t8mcmillan@gmail.com, LaManda Joy atinfo@petersongarden.org or visit the website at petersongarden.org.

Just a few blocks away in Rogers Park, neighbors along Albion and Northshore Avenues have banded together to create a peaceful and lush restoration garden along the Hartigan Beach shoreline.

Through strong grassroots activism, local residents of the Hartigan Family, Dorothy Gregory and Brandon Neese and collaborations with Joe Mashek, a Rogers Park landscape designer for Christy Weber and Summur Roberts, Director of Community Relations for Loyola University Chicago, a working group formed. Together, they obtained the support of the Chicago Park District, a well-received garden design and public support through Alderman Joe Moore's Participatory Budgeting (PB49) process in the 49th Ward.

PB49 is Alderman Moore's democratic process of distributing $1million of ward menu money designated for neighborhood improvements like street resurfacing, infrastructure repairs, and parks and environment projects. Projects are put forth and discussed in committees and final projects were voted on in late April. All ward residents are eligible to vote provided they are aged sixteen and can show proof of address.

As part of the voting process, residents determine what percentage of the budget is to be dedicated to street resurfacing projects.  The remaining funds are designated for the projects that get the highest number of votes.

The Hartigan Beach Restoration Garden, budgeted at $150,000 and to include a garden path, council ring, birch trees, native shrubs, bushes and fruited plants, narrowly lost the vote. However, there are new efforts underway to secure private funding and organizing a short-term summer/fall cleanup effort to improve the aesthetics of the former parking lot.

If you are interested in joining in either effort, please contact Summur Roberts, at 773-508-7450 orsrober6@luc.edu.


Community Relations
6330 N. Sheridan Road · Castle House - 3rd Floor
Lake Shore Campus · Chicago, IL 60660 · Phone: (773) 508-7450

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