From Grey to Green in Your Neighborhood

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Community members work together to make room for the Bowman Community Garden.

Volunteers working together—children and adults pushing wheel-barrows and carrying shovels—bring the words care, community, and cooperation to mind. Thanks to the support from the Prince Charitable Trusts, CNT helped create three new neighborhood open spaces. Each of our community partners—the Albany Park Community Center, Bowmanville Community Organization, and the United Church of Rogers Park—brought local volunteers together with CNT to reduce urban flooding in their neighborhood. The result: accessible community open spaces that reduce stormwater run-off in backyards and basements, and engage community members through hands-on participation.

By carefully selecting neighborhood spaces with high visibility—a prominent community garden and the street-side yards of the church and community center— and enlisting the help of local volunteers through community newsletters and local organization, we were able to promote tangible solutions to urban flooding that go beyond traditional ‘grey’ infrastructure approaches. These low-cost solutions, suitable for homes, business and public spaces, are typically fast and easy to install. Sometimes, the easiest fix involves little more than disconnecting a downspout and redirecting the runoff to a new rain garden.

The impact of small-scale solutions that educate while solving a problem go way beyond the immediate projects. By engaging directly with community members, we are tapping into existing networks of motivated community residents whose collective actions can address the issue of urban flooding at the city-level to improve quality-of-life for all city residents. That’s our ambition. Thanks to renewed funding from the Prince Charitable Trusts, we’re aiming for even larger neighborhood blitz events in 2013, with intensive activity where property owners and volunteers work together to install flood protection measures and green gardens in multiple homes, businesses and public spaces. From grey to green means more care, more cooperation and more community-building!