Trees, shrubs, grass and greenery provide multiple benefits to people, including helping improve physical health and psychological well-being. However, creating a community green space can seem challenging or difficult to envision, especially if your neighborhood doesn’t have any greenery at all. Taking the right approach can make it easier than you think. If you’re wondering how you can bring the benefits of green spaces to your neighborhood, we offer ideas.
Get community buy-in
Before bringing change to the neighborhood, it’s important for residents to get on board with proposed green space efforts. Let them know what kind of neighborhood improvements may result from your initiative. Green space benefits can include less crime and better overall health. One study that compared 98 vegetated and un-vegetated apartment buildings in Chicago found that those with green spaces had half as much crime. They instilled resident pride in their surroundings, resulting in less litter and graffiti. And the green spaces helped bring more watchful eyes as more people used them, helping prevent crime in those particular areas.
To raise awareness about how your community will directly benefit from green spaces, you can run a campaign. Use sail signs and yard signs to list two or three clear benefits an “urban forest” will provide. You can also include benefits on your agency’s website. Include the website URL and a QR code on flexible plastic door hangers to be placed on residents’ doors.
Be proactive about resident input
Getting residents on board is just one part of the community green space process. It is equally important to make sure they feel actively included in all major decisions. Do they want an area set aside for a community vegetable garden? Are they going to allow bikes or dogs on the premises? Do they have certain ideas for the look and landscaping?
Host brainstorming sessions with residents and key decision-makers to determine answers. Rounds of discussion at the city or town hall can help ensure the new green space meets community expectations. You can even set up a live online chat for people to ask questions and get answers.
Offer paid positions for locals
To help the community feel excited and invested before their new green space is even created, partner with local construction and maintenance companies to hire local workers. Consider offering a sign-up bonus as an incentive. For the initial construction project, you can even offer an “end-of-project” bonus to encourage people to stick with it to the end.
Getting youth involved wherever possible is another great way to encourage collaboration. Recruit area youth to help plant trees and shrubs or work on spreading the word through social media. Hold a groundbreaking ceremony and allow a local family to dig the first hole and plant the first tree. Invite the local media to cover the occasion and hand out giveaway items, like cushioned tree jar openers, to those in attendance.
Host an opening celebration
When the green space is complete, it’s time to celebrate. Mail Post Cards to the entire neighborhood inviting residents to attend a public celebration. Provide bottled water and individual boxes of cherry berry trail mix for people to picnic with on their new green space. Hand out giveaway items, like plantable tree pins, that’ll blossom into a beautiful bouquet. Every time residents see their flowers, they’ll be reminded of the great things the green space brings to the community.
Create a community green space
Green spaces provide many benefits, including lower blood pressure, improved mood and reduced stress. With ideas like getting community buy-in and hiring locals to help construct and maintain the space, you can soon bring those wonderful benefits to your community green space.