Green Urbanism & Rainwater Management: Cleveland Botanical Garden spearheads “Vacant to Vibrant” pilot program for rain gardens in three US states

Note to Reader:

Three cities in the United States – Gary, Indiana; Cleveland, Ohio; and Buffalo, New York – are part of a pilot program by the Cleveland Botanical Garden called Vacant to Vibrant aimed at helping communities struggling with abandoned homes. Gary has about 6,800 vacant structures.

Vacant to Vibrant

An effort is underway in Gary, Indiana to try to turn vacant properties into rain gardens that will help the city deal with its blight and stormwater management problems.

Sandra Albro-Cleveland_120p“I just see Gary as having a lot of potential that I believe has been unrealized,” says Sandra Albro, director of research for Cleveland Botanical Garden. “It has a great location on the lake, naturally sandy soils and great proximity to Chicago.”

The stormwater management problem in the City of Gary, Indiana, stems from its combined sewers, which lead to untreated wastewater being released during heavy rains. Gary is operating under a consent decree from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because of its lack of a long-term pollution-control plan.

“As part of our stormwater project, we’re looking at how to reduce contaminants going into the system as well,” said Brenda Scott-Henry, Gary’s director of green urbanism and environmental affairs.

Albro said the work isn’t meant to be the answer for all vacant properties, but it is one approach.

“In many of the neighborhoods in Gary and Cleveland, these are the first investments that have taken place in these neighborhoods in decades,” she said.

Brenda Scott Henry_Gary Indiana_120pThe effects of the work are spreading throughout Gary’s neighborhoods.

“They’re sprucing up their own properties,” Scott-Henry said. “One guy said he’s going to put up a white picket fence, have a barbecue and invite his family over to look at the site. We have neighbors taking care of three, four, five lawns on a block just to keep it looking good.”

To Learn More:

V2V is a collaborative effort between various individuals and organizations in Buffalo, Gary and Cleveland. At the hub is Cleveland Botanical Garden’s Department of Research, which also includes two volunteers who dedicate their time and service.  In addition, each city’s community teams are essential in carrying out project goals to fruition. Visit Meet the Vacant to Vibrant team

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