When Pamela Woods first became active with the Beekman Corridor Coalition, she was quiet and did not speak in public. Over time, she became the Chair for the Beekman Corridor Coalition’s Housing Committee and a member of WIN’s Board. As the Housing Committee Chair, Pamela worked with other residents who wanted to get vacant blighted lots into the hands of people living in the community who would invest time and money into improving and maintaining them. With WIN’s support, they successfully negotiated an agreement with the Landbank to waive their standard $500-$1,000 fee for vacant lots in the Beekman Corridor for homeowners and long-time residents. Since the launch of the Beekman Corridor “Dollar Lot” pilot program, around 30 vacant lots have been acquired by residents for $1, plus title & transfer fees. Many of them are now working on projects to install green infrastructure to manage stormwater, plant mini-orchards and native species to support wildlife and attract pollinators and create space to spend time with family and neighbors.
Pamela knew exactly which lot she was interested in taking control of—a vacant lot near her home had been a problem for years, garnering dozens of complaints and violations for overgrown weeds, litter, dumping, junk cars and more. Citations & fines were added to property tax bill, bringing the delinquency to nearly $11,000 before the land went into forfeiture and ended up in the City’s abandoned property program. The sloping corner lot, encircled with trees that drops down to the wooded West Fork Mill Creek would be the perfect place to create a safe, educational, green community space for kids and families in her neighborhood, somewhere they could learn about gardening, healthy food, and nature. “I took cooking classes in Home-Ec when I was in high school, but they never talked about where the food came from or how to grow it. I just thought vegetables came from the Kroger.”
Pamela Woods & her family are a perfect example of the how community ownership of these properties can bring positive change and once they acquired the lot, things changed for the better. The grass was cut and free from litter. They devised attractive but effective ways to “defend” their property from illegal dumpers and junk cars, using decorative stones and planters full of bright flowers. But it was clear it would take a lot of work and planning to complete the transformation at the corner of Herron & Powers St. Like many of vacant lots, this property has issues with compacted clay soil, likely lead contamination, steep slopes, and stormwater run-off issues.
Fortunately, Environmental Justice funding from the US EPA is supporting WIN’s efforts to develop partnerships and resources to help residents like Pamela. WIN is looking at ways to incorporate green infrastructure to reduce stormwater run-off, pollution, and blight. This includes trees, gardens, and rainwater collection. With WIN’s support, Pamela applied for and received funding from Keep Cincinnati Beautiful through the “Safe & Clean” and “Spaces to Places” programs. Her project will receive funding, professional landscape design services, technical support, and additional volunteers to build her garden.
To get the next phase of her project moving, Pamela knocked on neighbors’ doors to invite them to an event to get their ideas and input about what they would like the Children’s Garden to have, skills she learned and developed through her work with the Beekman Corridor Coalition. Landscape design firm Human Nature incorporated this feedback into an incredible design concept/site plan that incorporates community space, nature education, native plants, and trees, raised vegetable beds, and pollinator gardens. The design also incorporates green infrastructure elements to slow and filter stormwater run-off as it moves down slope to the West Fork Creek.
WIN has connected Pamela & her neighbors to volunteer groups to help remove invasive species and clean up the vestiges of illegal dumping that had accumulated along the creek. We’ve also helped her document the support of her neighbors and the Community Council to get City approval for necessary zoning & permit issues. It’s taken a lot of time and hard work, and there’s more ahead. But Pamela believes it’s worth it, if it means families and children in this neighborhood have a safe, green place to garden and enjoy the beauty of nature. WIN wholeheartedly agrees, and we’re extremely proud to work alongside neighborhood leaders like Pamela.