Amplifying Community VOices for Change
Dotted within and around Groundwork communities are hundreds of acres of brownfields–land suspected of being contaminated by hazardous substances or industrial pollutants. Disproportionately, these properties are located in low-income urban neighborhoods with more pavement and contaminated soil than healthy outdoor spaces. For more than two decades, Groundwork Trusts have worked hand-in-hand with residents to safely transform these underutilized spaces into community assets like parks, trails, playgrounds, and community gardens.
The Groundwork Land Use Innovation Grant, made possible through a joint partnership of the NPS-Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program and the EPA’s Office of Brownfields and Land Revitalization, led and managed by Groundwork USA, provides an opportunity to invest significantly in the role of community members in the transformation of these spaces.
Through the inaugural round of funding, five Groundwork Trusts were selected to receive a combined $200,000 to expand efforts to engage residents in the transition of former brownfields into community assets. These projects use innovative community engagement methods – from creating community task forces to emerging virtual collaboration platforms – to ensure community voice is reflected in the planning process and that the new spaces meet the surrounding community’s needs.
“The National Park Service is proud to lead this effort with EPA and Groundwork USA to advance community-led conservation and outdoor recreation in under-resourced urban neighborhoods,” National Park Service Director Chuck Sams said. “Strengthening these important partnerships in local communities is a key component of our work to address long-standing environmental injustices.”
“EPA continues to be a proud partner with the National Park Service in support of Groundwork USA,” said Dr. Carlton Waterhouse, EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Land and Emergency Management. “We are excited to see how these Land Use Innovation Grants will help the selected Groundwork Trusts educate and engage the communities around brownfield issues, including ways that sites can be safely reused for much-needed recreation and green space.”
The Land Use Innovation Fund grant recipients include:
- Groundwork Bridgeport: to collect community input on a waterfront activation plan for a large, coastal, publicly-owned brownfield site – Sliver by the River. This will provide a critical opportunity for residents’ needs to inform the ongoing revitalization efforts.
- Groundwork Hudson Valley: to engage the local community in the design of the future Ludlow Park – a new public park along the Hudson River in Southwest Yonkers. GWHV will examine an array of issues for the formal design process, such as public access/connectivity issues, climate resilience features, ecological constraints and opportunities, and historical and interpretive programs and amenities to guide the site design and ensure the future park meets both the accessibility and resilience needs of the surrounding neighborhoods.
- Groundwork Lawrence: to form and facilitate a neighborhood advisory group to create a vision for transforming the former Cyr Oil property, which is currently used as a parking lot, into an accessible greenspace that extends active transportation opportunities in the neighborhood while addressing climate concerns.
- Groundwork Ohio River Valley: to create a new Climate Safe Neighborhood’s Climate Advisory Group to develop a resiliency strategy and plan for improving five brownfield sites. GWORV will connect youth employment, city policy, and the priorities of frontline communities to guide site improvement and climate planning in the city.
- Groundwork Rhode Island: to develop educational programming for the West End Composting Hub, which will transform two adjacent brownfields into a community composting facility, a community education center where community members can learn about brownfields remediation, composting, urban agriculture, and community resilience strategies.
“We’re excited to continue partnering with the National Park Service and Environmental Protection Agency to expand opportunities for Groundwork Trusts to pilot innovative strategies to engage community members in the transformation of brownfields into community assets,” said Groundwork USA Board President Heather McMann. “Land reuse projects can only reach their full potential when the surrounding community is included in the creation of a new vision for the space, and these grants will enable Trusts to test new ways of co-creating that vision.”
These planning and implementation projects will spark innovation, build community leadership, and lead to long-term investment in land revitalization in Groundwork communities.
To learn more about The Land Use Innovation Grants and the grantee projects, please visit: https://groundworkusa.org/land-use-innovation-initiative/
Groundwork USA is the national capacity-building organization for a cross-country network of people-centered environmental justice organizations working hand-in-hand with residents to transform environmentally disadvantaged urban neighborhoods into healthy, green, and resilient communities. For over two decades, we have worked to undo the legacies of poverty and racial discrimination and build the capacity of communities to effect change in the natural and built environments in which they live. We do this by developing community-based partnerships that empower people, businesses, and organizations to promote environmental, economic, and social well-