Studies demonstrate again and again why community beautification matters. Neighborhood safety, economic development, community pride and cohesion, mental and physical health all increase with a prettier and cleaner environment. There is a wide network of dedicated public servants, both City officials and community activists, working every day to make Philadelphia a cleaner and greener city.
But how can you, as a citizen, access that network?
Keep Philadelphia Beautiful and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) are teaming up to answer just that question on Wednesday night, helping to demystify how residents can make a tangible difference on their block, and throughout their neighborhood. (The event, part of Young Involved Philadelphia’s neighborhood 101 event series, is co-sponsored by The Citizen.)
We’ll explore the intersection of individual action and citywide initiatives and policy development—like, for example, the pervasive issue of vacant lots, which are magnets for illegal dumping and crime. A number of different entities already are working in conjunction to address this concern—from Philadelphia’s new Land Bank (a mechanism for streamlining the sale of underutilized City-owned land), to the City of Philadelphia’s Community Life Improvement Program, and neighborhood-based efforts through Community Development Corporations and Business Improvement Districts.
We’ll also spotlight innovative and impactful Philadelphia-based efforts, such as PHS’s LandCare program, a partnership between PHS and the City of Philadelphia to stabilize, clean, and green vacant parcels with the intention of returning them to productive use. Since its inception in 2001, the program has installed landscape treatments and performed maintenance work on more than 12,000 lots, covering 16 million square feet of vacant land in neighborhoods throughout the city. More than 800 of those lots have been redeveloped into new homes, commercial properties, and green space such as community gardens and pocket parks.
Take a moment to think about the public spaces you utilize every day: residential streets, commercial corridors, parks and trails, the city’s many beer gardens in the summer months. Yes, they have the potential to create community in the obvious ways, by inviting us to spend time with our fellow Philadelphians. But working to maintain them, fighting for them, shaping their future—together—is an even more meaningful way to bring Philadelphians together. Join us on Wednesday to learn how you can do more.
Matt Rader is president of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society; Michelle Feldman is director of Keep Philadelphia Beautiful.Photo header: Flickr/Tony Fischer