Power of the People

7-groupWhat turns a block into a neighborhood? Studies across the country show that the care and safety of an area depends on the sense of ownership residents bestow on their community.  This can be initiated or enhanced in a variety of ways, but one way is by creating or improving a shared amenity such as a park. And since the community members are the benefactors, shouldn’t they play a primary role in the planning, design, construction and maintenance of the space?   I believe the answer is yes and whether acting on their own or with the help of an organization like Kaboom!, getting residents involved actually infuses the community with that sense of ownership.

I had the opportunity to reaffirm this belief over the summer when local government, businesses and volunteers (over 200 of them) came together to organize and build a neighborhood playground at the Knox Court Park in the Westwood Neighborhood of Denver.  It’s not too far from my house and, while it’s always a rewarding feeling when a project you have put a lot of time and effort into comes to fruition, it’s even better when the project is aimed to improve an underutilized park in a deserving neighborhood. The playground got some shiny new playground equipment, new irrigation, lots of young trees and even highlighted community art projects. It was hot and a lot of work, but you can see the faces of everybody who helped out – this belongs to us. It really goes back to the idea that a community does not magically appear, but is created and nurtured by the caring and involved residents.

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  1. Dancing in the streets: a history of collective joy By Barbara Ehrenreich is a fabulous book on the importance of community throughout history. The author concludes that we are innately social beings yearning for community and that when those needs are met societies are more peaceful and joyful. Building places like Knox Court Park seems like a wonderful and important way to provide opportunities for dancing in the street.

  2. Giving back to the communities in which we live and work is so very important from a professional standpoint but more importantly from a personal standpoint. Landscape architects are uniquely skilled to offer much needed talent to projects like this park. We can help improve our community in very physical and meaningful ways. Your community needs you. Don’t just sit on the porch and watch; participate.

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