Lessons for Green and Resilient Communities from Olympia, Washington


Olympia WA Community Garden Drawing

Olympia, Washington has some stories to tell that show how citizens are using city programs for greening the community. Neighborhood matching grants usually are modest in size, between a thousand and ten thousand dollars. The grant money is matched by citizen sweat equity.

Grants are applied for, usually in coordination with a neighborhood association or with its endorsement. The project is citizen driven, on public property, must serve the public good and typically involves still more players in the community.

Over six years ago, neighbors in Olympia's Northeast Neighborhood recognized an opportunity to turn a problem into a benefit. This 1960's era suburban neighborhood is similar to many others all acrosFoto the country. One fifth of an acre properties, three bedroom homes, sidewalks, streets with curbs. Middle class, mostly home owners, maybe a bit on the progressive side politically. Importantly, Northeast has an active neighborhood association.

There is a grade school in the neighborhood and a lot of kids can walk to school. Some kids could have used a street right of way that had no street but it was cluttered with construction debris and overgrown with trees, shrubs and the ever present blackberry thickets. That right of way could have reduced the walk to and from school for some kids by several blocks but it was impassible.

Several people in the neighborhood looked at that overgrown and cluttered right of way and saw an opportunity. Wouldn't it be nice to make something positive with that right of way?

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