People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) is moving in a number of different directions these days, many of which have to do with sustainability.
One of the people that is helping to lead that charge is Ken Parker, PUSH Blue Program Manager. Ken, a horticulturalist by trade, recently joined up with PUSH, after working for the Seneca Nation to promote the cultural importance and health benefits of native plants, among other sustainability directives.
Today Ken is helping to roll out longterm strategies for PUSH, to engage residents in the community – to empower people to reevaluate their connection to the land, to the water… to their natural surroundings. He is doing this by working with entities such as the Buffalo Sewer Authority, by helping people to understand the importance of green infrastructure. He also engaged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop the Plant ID workshop portion of a 30-day watershed stewardship program in 2017. This year, he will be coordinating (along with Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper) the delivery of a youth stewardship program to finish off the EPA funded initiative.
When Ken is not meeting with the community to discuss the importance of rain gardens and bioswales, he’s teaching people about the importance of seed collecting and indigenous plants. Ken was recently approved as a Green Infrastructure Trainer – he’s the only one in NYS certified with this esteemed designation, and he’s one of 14 people in the US to be awarded with the merit. That means that Ken can now readily bestow his knowledge of green infrastructure upon others, via programming which is designed to arm people with the knowledge that will allow them to move in a variety of green directions. From understanding the importance of alleviating Buffalo’s combined sewer overflow pollution problem, to providing training opportunities that will allow people to secure green jobs, Ken is on a mission to advance Buffalo’s sustainability directives.
PUSH Blue recently completed bio-retention installations on 221 sites (19 acres) post demolition sites throughout the city of Buffalo in partnership with the Buffalo Sewer Authority.
According to Ken, 52% of PUSH properties are vacant lots on the West Side. Dozens are dedicated to rain gardens, and 14 plots are reserved as community gardens with raised boxes. These lots are directly tied to the health of the city. They can either be detriments, or assets. Ken believes that they need to be assets, where people can grow food, plant pollinator gardens, and retain stormwater.
I asked Ken what he saw as one of the greatest longterm visions/goals of PUSH Blue. He said that he wants to create a strategy for increased plant production, where PUSH can supply native species to The City, Urban Roots, and Olmsted Parks, for example. He also said that he is very excited about PUSH moving its headquarters into School 77 (learn more). The move will permit PUSH to use the site as a real life learning lab, where they can conduct eco landscaping on the grounds. A plan to install a green roof on the building is set to get underway this spring. The new headquarters will allow PUSH to create a sustainable way of life for its workers, who will also be able to teach eco lessons via the ever evolving learning lab. To me, that’s about as exciting as it gets. I can’t wait to see how these new advancements impact Buffalo in years to come.