CityLab has posted an interesting article on greening vacant lots in areas of West Baltimore that suffer from disinvestment, similar to Buffalo’s East Side. Ecologist Chris Swan has been studying the poor soil conditions left behind, in the wake of demolitions. Swan has been experimenting with coming up with the right treatments for the plots, which would allow meadows with native wildflowers to flourish.
The article points out many of the advantages to temporarily dedicating the fallow lands to a more productive nature. Not only is this a relatively inexpensive fix, it is also an environmental boon. Instead of having properties that languish as vacant lots that do nothing for the neighborhood, the idea is to create beautiful meadows that take care of themselves.
Eventually, a thriving meadow will attract birds, and pollinators, not to mention water retention. They can become points of pride for neighborhoods, with educational components.
The hardest part of getting a program of this nature off the ground, is to demonstrate to a City that it’s the right thing to do. It could appear to be a hassle, with relatively little upside. City’s tend to look at projects that are going to attract development. Environmental causes such as this tend to gain little traction for the most part. That’s why it’s so important that Swan’s work gets recognized and understood for what it is. This is really the first time that an ecological study such as this has come to pass. What is the soil composition? What seeds will take root? How high will certain plants grow? Hopefully these studies will be made available to other cities, that are looking to come up with inexpensive solutions to beautifying vacant lots, while making them environmentally productive at the same time.
Lead image: Photo courtesy Chris Swan & CityLab