Brownfields and equitable development are the topics du jour for Groundwork USA at the 15th annual New Partners for Smart Growth Conference in Portland, OR next week. Groundwork staff members Kate O’Brien and Tangier Barnes will facilitate a conference session focused on how to design and implement successful brownfield small-area planning projects. Our team is particularly excited about an “extracurricular” workshop we’ll deliver, focused on engaging young people in brownfield planning and advocacy. With this workshop, Groundwork USA aims to capture the attention of youth, community-based practitioners, and municipal staff alike, and build their capacity for leading inclusive, equitably oriented projects and programs.
Funded by EPA to deliver technical assistance and peer support to people in brownfield-affected communities, Groundwork USA provides valuable tools and insights to help communities re-develop brownfields while assuring environmental justice and more equitable development outcomes.
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From January 10 to 16, 20 Groundwork youth leaders gathered in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park to focus on a critical question: How can we close the diversity gap and engage communities that don’t typically visit national parks? Joining the Groundwork team to kick off the new National Park Service Mountains to Main Street program were representatives from the National Park Service (NPS), Teton Science School, Student Conservation Association, City Kids, and guests such as Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela and former National Park Service Director Bob Stanton.
The goal was not to diversify national park audiences simply by taking people unfamiliar with the parks on a visit. That strategy has been tried again and again with limited success. Instead, Mountains to Main Street program participants spent the week thinking about their local communities back home, drawing upon team members’ own experiences living and working in communities of color and underserved urban neighborhoods. Rather than trying to meet the needs of the park, participants approached the “diversity gap” question by focusing on the needs of their own communities. What are the barriers that stop team members’ constituents from visiting the parks? By crafting programs uniquely tailored to meet the needs of their own communities back home and involving a local national park as a collaborator and/or source of inspiration, Groundwork participants hope to forge lasting relationships between parks and communities that will endure after the Mountains to Main Street program has ended.
The Groundwork youth leaders and their colleagues spent the week thinking through the challenges their task entails, all while learning systems thinking, the NPS approach to interpretation, and new ways to enjoy national parks. What are some ways to engage audiences who think that national parks “aren’t our thing?” What is it like to visit a park and feel that there’s no one else there who looks like you? Program participants also heard from local youth who have just begun venturing into Grand Teton National Park thanks to the Grand Teton National Park Foundation’s Pura Vida program, which educates and engages local Latino youth in GTNP. Of course, plenty of time was also spent just enjoying the snow-covered splendor of the Tetons!
The week-long confab received high marks from participants, all of whom felt ready to implement their action plans by the end of the week. And what amazing new ideas and approaches emerged for engaging new audiences with the national parks during NPS’s centennial year! Over the next few months, the newly minted Mountains to Main Street Urban Ambassadors will develop logistical strategies, collaborating with park personnel to develop programs attractive to diverse audiences and crafting effective messages to engage them. Grand Teton’s Megan Kohli (with Superintendent Vela’s help) is reaching out to the parks selected by the participants to gain park personnel’s support in helping to make these Mountains to Main Street programs a success. Once the programs are implemented, Groundwork participants will report back to the Groundwork network on the successes and challenges of this exciting venture. Follow their progress on social media at #Mountains2MainStreet.
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Join Groundwork USA and our partner, TDA Consulting, for a free, interactive webinar on the role of community engagement in advancing an equitable development agenda.
Hear directly from some of the field’s most innovative practitioners who are achieving equitable brownfield redevelopment outcomes:
Marianne Paley Nadel, Owner/Manager at Everett Mills Real Estate LLC
Marianne will share the story of the Reviviendo Gateway Initiative in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The mission of Reviviendo is to build human capital, create new housing and commercial space, improve the public environment, and redefine the city’s image. Marianne will discuss the process to achieve the project’s main objectives, explore the importance of benchmarking progress, and provide an update on the initiative.
Regina Laurie, Community Engagement Consultant
Regina will talk about her work in Flint, MI over the past 15 years working with the Genesee County Land Bank, the City of Flint’s master plan, neighborhood based organizations on community engagement, coalition building, working across difference, and the importance of community healing using storytelling. Her work in Flint particularly focused on supporting the Land Bank’s pass-through of $20M in Neighborhood Stabilization funds to address housing demolition, and related historic and current systemic issues the community is facing as a result of massive disinvestment and depopulation.
Tedd Grain, Deputy Director of Indy LISC
Through initiatives like Quality of Life neighborhoods, Great Places 2020, and Reconnecting to our Waterways, Indianapolis LISC seeks strategic community development and deployment of resources, including aligning grassroots community priorities with brownfield remediation efforts through the Indy Brownfield Accelerator. Tedd will describe the community engagement process that has led to catalytic investment in these initiatives.
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Ashley Perez didn’t grow up spending much time outdoors in nature. That changed the summer of 2010, when the then-15-year-old joined the Groundwork Hudson Valley Green Team. Blown away by the experience, Ashley returned to the Green Team the next summer and every summer after until heading to college. She has since participated in conservation programs across the U.S. with the National Park Service and the Student Conservation Association, eventually joining the Board of Directors of Groundwork USA in 2015. This month, SUNY Purchase profiles the soon-to-graduate environmental studies major, who continues to find new ways to merge her passion for the outdoors with a love of science and community building.
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The Thanksgiving and holiday season is a great time to take stock of all the things we’re grateful for: family, friends, pets, the beauty of the natural world.
But did you know there’s a growing body of scientific evidence that feeling and expressing gratitude can be good for your health? Or that the U.S. National Park Service provides evidence that gratitude can be passed down through generations?
Combining the latest research on gratitude with personal stories, The Science of Gratitude, a one-hour public radio special narrated by Academy Award-winner Susan Sarandon, explores the opportunities and challenges to feeling truly grateful.
Johnson and 11 other youth from Groundwork Trusts in Dallas, Denver and New Orleans went to National Elk Refuge to work, learn and play as part of Groundwork USA’s growing partnership with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and their Urban Wildlife Conservation Program. The experience left a lasting impact on all of them.
The youth also worked at Grand Teton National Park nearby the same week, and talked about their time there with us — you can read about that here.
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This summer, Groundwork USA sent nine Green Team youth from around the network for a week-long trip to Grand Teton National Park to work, learn and live. While in the backcountry of Wyoming, the youth learned new skills that they can bring to their Groundwork projects back home, gained more knowledge about themselves and how they work, and a greater appreciation for nature.
Whilst in Wyoming, they had the opportunity learn more about themselves and how they work. For Cindy Leija from Groundwork Dallas, patience was an important lesson learned: “I would get stressed out working in the heat. But patience is a benefit to me and my team, and it’s worth it.” Many Green Team members found that their trip has not only brought a focus to their work in their cities but also made them grateful for their Groundwork education. “Groundwork has been here for me and been an opportunity for me and my friends to avoid being on the streets,” Jeremiah Roy says. “It gives us something to look forward to.”
This summer’s partnership was our first with Grand Teton National Park, modeled after our current partnership with their neighbor to the north Yellowstone National Park and their Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) program. Groundwork USA’s vision is to extend our partnership with Grand Teton and continue bringing urban youth to the greater outdoors for these once (maybe twice) in a lifetime experiences.
This summer, Groundwork USA sent Green Team youth from around the network for a week-long trip to Yellowstone National Park to work, learn and live. While in the backcountry of America, the youth learned new skills that they can bring to their Groundwork projects back home, gained more knowledge about themselves and how they work, and a greater appreciation for nature. Building a stone wall was one of the major projects that they worked on. In addition, the Green Team students were able to talk to park rangers and YCC staff about their roles within the Park Service and to talk about career ideas. Read more about Yellowstone through the eyes of three youth from Groundwork Jacksonville, Groundwork Portland and Groundwork Richmond.
Magpi is helping Groundwork Denver be a little bit greener and lot more efficient. Using Magpi’s mobile data collection app, Groundwork Denver team members can now go ‘paperless’ when collecting field data about the environmental revitalization and conservation work they do; everything from planting trees and cleaning up streams, to gardening, building playgrounds, and habitat restoration. More Magpi and less paper use means Groundwork Denver is doing its own part to contribute to a ‘green’ environment. Check out their recent press release and read more about this exciting new partnership here.
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