Blogs

Talking about Sustainable Communities

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I spent last week Thursday at the Ecological Landscaping Conference. I was speaking in the afternoon about Groundwork Lawrence, our programs and our efforts in greening the community and making it a more sustainable one. I had a great time attending lectures and visiting the Eco-Marketplace. The diversity of workshops was great and really speaks to the diversity of ideas, creativity, and solutions to problems of human caused climate change, depleting groundwater levels, and lack of tree diversity (among other topics). You can check out the full range of workshops on the Ecological Landscaping Association website here.

I had some great questions at my talk and because our work at Groundwork is so encompassing, I find it difficult knowing where to focus when I speak to groups. I didn't really talk about our Youth Program, the Green Team, except in passing but they are a major component and driver of our programs. I spoke mainly about park projects we have completed, the Spicket River Greenway and our alleyway and vacant lot initiatives. Some great questions and discussions during the talk, and that we at Groundwork continue to struggle with, were focused on volunteers - specifically the role of large volunteer contingents in creating sustainable place-based project developments.

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I also spoke about what it means to do outreach to a community and how to engage individuals and groups in community meetings. I think one important point is that people don’t like meetings! However, people like food and they deserve respect-respect of their time and of their opinion. I love that here in Lawrence I have learned a lot about the importance of a diverse range of outreach as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the internet. In Lawrence folks watch cable access, read the Trib and they find out about events from their friends and colleagues. Knowing the methods of information dissemination (as well as language) is key in gathering necessary public opinion.

A woman asked me near the end of the talk – “what is the role of the landscape designer?” I answered her by discussing the importance of a skilled designer and meeting facilitator being able to understand what the community wants to see in their public space and distill it on to paper in a public meeting format. Another important aspect is budget (obviously) and being able to separate out parts of the design or project into pieces that can be done with creative fundraising or in the public bidding process with add-alternates. The other thing I talked about is recognizing the lack of maintenance that your project is going to receive(or not receive as the case may be). In many cash strapped cities low maintenance parks are what you are going to have whether you design them with that intent or not so it is important to know what that is going to mean on the ground.

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Of course, one always comes up with more answers once your brain is able to percolate on it a bit. I realized one thing I should have added is that the designer (be they engineer or landscape architect) needs to recognize and respect the role of the community in the process. The community may not necessarily be represented by the Owner in a municipal project either which is an important distinction for the designer to understand. In our case we are generally talking about parks and other forms of public open space; a beautiful design is only totally successful with use and activity by the people it is built for.

Thanks to the folks who came to hear me speak on creating sustainable communities. It was a pleasure and an honor to share good news out of Lawrence.

You can find the full presentation here and in our Library.

Lawrence History-Violent Conflict during the Bread and Roses Strike

Saturday, Feb. 27, 1-4 pm
Lawrence State Heritage Park
One Jackson Street
Lawrence, MA

Join historians Robert Forrant and Jim Beauchesne for an introduction to the Great Strike of 1912 and a tour of selected locations. Then, view excerpts from the documentary film, John Brown’s Holy War, followed by a discussion of Brown’s choice for armed conflict.

Free and open to the public. Refreshments provided.
Preregistration not necessary. Questions? Call (413) 588-1606

Green Team member awarded prestigious Posse Scholarship!

We're pleased to echo the announcement by the Lawrence School System that our own Jennifer Pagan has been awarded the Posse Foundation Scholarship and will attend Bryn Mawr in the fall. Jennifer was one of five Lawrence High Students chosen from the Boston region. All Posse Scholars receive receive four-year, merit based full-tuition leadership scholarships from Posse’s partner institutions of higher education.

Jennifer has been a Green Team Member from her freshman year at Lawrence High School. We are constantly impressed with her (as well as of our youth). We will definitely miss her as part of the team come next fall, but are so excited by her award and look forward to learning about her success at college.

Playground work continuing in winter at Cronin Park

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Work is ongoing this winter with the playground installation at Cronin Park. The play equipment work should continue for another week and then the contractor, Quirk Construction, will proceed with construction of the garden beds for the community garden area. We look forward to having the park complete by summer for kids' playing and for gardening!

Groundwork USA launches new website!

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Check out the new Groundwork USA website launched February 1.

Groundwork Lawrence is an affiliate of Groundwork USA. The Groundwork USA network is built on partnership and linked together by the Groundwork USA national office, with support from the Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields Program and the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program.

Bread and Roses Housing Announces Application Process for Affordable Housing in Lawrence

Bread and Roses Housing, Inc., a Community Land Trust, is currently accepting applications for 3-bedroom homes to be built (duplex style) in Lawrence, MA. Each 3-bedroom, 1.5 bath home will be sold for $75,000 to a low income first time homebuyer. The homes will remain owner-occupied and affordable through all future sales and re-sales.

To receive information and to learn about how you can apply you must attend a BRH seminar on
Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 6 PM
or
Saturday, March 20, 2010 at 3 PM
at the main branch of the
Lawrence Public Library.

Applications are only available by attending a BRH seminar.

¿Esta interesado en comprar una casa económica?

BRH esta aceptando aplicaciones para comprar casas de 3-dormitorios que estarán en construcción en Lawrence, MA. Cada unídad (la mitad del duplex) tiene un coste de $75,000 y serán vendidas a propietarios de bajos ingresos y ser primeros compradores. Las casas deben permanecer ocupadas y mantenerse a bajos precios en ventas futuras.

Para recibir más información y una aplicación tiene que asistir a una reunión:
el martes, el 2 de marzo 2010 a las 6 PM
o
el sabado, el 20 de marzo, 2010 a las 3 PM
en la biblioteca publica de Lawrence.

For more information, contact:

Lidia Rivera-Garcia
Bread & Roses Housing
PO Box 7
Lawrence, MA 01842
(978) 685-1823 x 1
infoatbrh@aol.com

Luis Yepez, GWL Board member, and his brother, Juan, attend tonight's State of the Union Address

I'm happy to share with you that Luis and Juan Yepez will be attending this evening's State of the Union address. Luis and Juan have been strong supporters of GWL and the City of Lawrence for many years. Luis is a member of GWL's Board of Directors and Juan serves on Family Services' Board. Juan will be seated in the viewing box with First Lady Michelle Obama, an extraordinary honor and a great tribute to Luis and Juan's work and contributions in Lawrence. We are incredibly proud to be so well-represented at this historic event! Here are a couple of links with the story:

Information from the White House Press Release:
Juan and Luis Yepez are Ecuadorian-natives, who in ten short years, have built a successful and growing commercial real estate company in addition to growing Mainstream Global, a worldwide distributor of computer products, consumer electronics, and electronic components, in mills once inhabited by earlier generations of immigrants. The Yépez brothers were the recipients of the 2009 Small Business Administration Phoenix award for recovering from a major flood that destroyed almost $400,000 of inventory while still managing to flourish in the midst of an economic downturn. They believe that doing business in an area hit by 17 percent unemployment is more than just giving back and that hiring first generation Americans like themselves who want to work and contribute to society is the cornerstone of long-term success.

Launch of Merrimack Valley MPO's 2011 Regional Transportation Plan

MVPC is holding three kick-off meetings around the region to discuss the content of Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), how they intend to develop the document so that the MPO can adopt the new plan in March 2011, and most importantly to listen to any suggestions or observations that you may have that should be considered in the document. Consider attending one of these three sessions:

  • January 28, 2010 at 6:30 p.m. at Salisbury Town Hall, Colchester Room, 5 Beach Street, Salisbury, MA
  • February 2, 2010 at 6:30 p.m. at 60 Island Street, Lawrence, 1st floor (same building as Groundwork Lawrence)
  • February 4, 2010 at 6:30 p.m. at Haverhill City Hall, Room 301, Main Street, Haverhill, MA
  • Light refreshments will be served; call Andy Komornick at MVPC for more infromation: (978) 374-0519.

    The Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) is the cornerstone of the transportation planning process. While many people focus their attention on the MPO’s project programming tool, the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), it is the RTP where a region’s transportation priorities are established, where existing and potential problems with the transportation network are identified, where future travel demand is forecast and where studies that address these issues are first recommended. The recommendations and findings included in the Plan are then moved to implementation usually as studies that get included in the region’s Unified Planning Work Program, and then ultimately as projects that get programmed for implementation in the TIP. However, while we often tell people that any project or program that is to be implemented using federal transportation funding must appear in the TIP, the importance of the RTP can be found in the fact that no important transportation project can appear in the TIP without also being in the Regional Transportation Plan.

Uplifting story on Lawrence on NECN

Groundwork Lawrence’s former Executive Director, Maggie Super Church, is one of two families highlighted in NECN’s Bending the Curve: Closing the Economic Gap story aired on Tuesday, January 12. The Spicket River Greenway and Union Crossing projects are highlighted, as well as our partner, Lawrence CommunityWorks with their great financial asset building programming including supporting first time homeowners and working to help families avoid foreclosure. Watch the clip on Lawrence’s great assets and affordable living for a diverse community by visiting this link.