Groundwork Buffalo is pleased to welcome Antonina Simeti as its new Executive Director. An experienced urbanist, Simeti is committed to creating new models for economically and environmentally sustainable development. She is especially interested in participatory planning processes and place-based interventions that challenge traditional planning frameworks in order to meet broad policy goals.
“It’s a great time to be in Buffalo,” said Simeti. “With the experience and resources of the Groundwork USA network, the excitement of our board, and community members hungry to participate, I think we can all work together creatively to drive the kind of transformation from which everyone benefits. My goal is to support purposeful, yet innovative projects that will empower and generate excitement. Groundwork Buffalo provides a perfect platform to equip our neighborhoods to respond, with optimism, to the environmental, economic, and global climate forces continuing to impact the city. It’s exciting, and I’m glad to be here and a part of it!”
Simeti’s professional experience includes non-profit management, design strategy, public policy research, user research, and environmental impact analysis. She has worked with a range of stakeholders including government agencies, elected officials, community-based organizations, business leaders, cultural and higher education institutions, designers, and educators. Simeti holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Tufts University and a master’s degree in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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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.
In late September, Groundwork Somerville and NPS-RTCA brought Canoemobile, a two-day paddling event, to Boston. Canoemobile is a program of a non-profit adventure tourism organization out of Minnesota called Wilderness Inquiry that travels with six 24-foot canoes all over the country. The program came to Somerville on September 22nd, 2015 at the Blessing of the Bay Boathouse and was hosted by GWS. The second day of programming was hosted by YMCA Boston at DCR Neponset Park in Dorchester.
Groundwork Denver, together with local partners, will develop an action plan with residents of low-income Denver communities to address the public health impacts of extreme heat events.
Groundwork Milwaukee will train community teens and young adults to build rain gardens and install rain barrels to collect stormwater runoff and prevent flooding, demonstrating how green infrastructure can lessen the effects of climate change.
The Groundwork New Orleans Building Climate Resilient Communities project will teach students to design, build, and install solar-powered charging benches on or near bus stops in underserved communities, providing community members with clean energy to use during daily commutes and during emergency power outages.