The project team is honored to announce that the International District Urban Agriculture Plan – Presbyterian Health Resource Center Community Garden won the Arid LID Coalition’s First Annual 2021 Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) Award of Excellence in the Constructed Category! This award highlights and celebrates the creative Green Stormwater Infrastructure solutions developed for the Presbyterian Kaseman Health Resource Center Community Garden project, including multiple strategies for on-site water harvesting and urban soil remediation as part of the International District Urban Agriculture Plan that was created in partnership with Bernalillo County. Read more about the award and the project significance below:
In partnership with Bernalillo County, the International District Healthy Communities Coalition (IDHCC), and through the involvement of over 20 public and private stakeholder groups and focus on nine distinct urban agriculture sites, our team engaged a “planning in action” process that included district-wide participatory design, assistance in acquiring funding and implementation of several of the nine design plans. This immersive approach revealed key barriers and opportunities for sustainable community-based urban agriculture and resulted in realistic and actionable recommendations.
“Cost of water” was the top barrier identified (with “broken irrigation system” not far behind) for urban gardeners, making the integration of passive water harvesting in urban agriculture projects critical for garden sustainability. Further functional benefits include improved water quality, soil decompaction and remediation, heat mitigation and demonstration/educational opportunities for the project partners and community at large.
The greatest challenge was addressing dependence on single-source funds and/or single individuals associated with the failure of urban agricultural efforts. Our work built a network of partnerships, recommended client support, and implemented examples of low-impact design (such as green infrastructure). For the Presbyterian Health Resource Center (HRC) Community Garden, we addressed the perception that removing pavement and capturing parking lot runoff would create additional drainage problems by reducing amount of discharge to the street.
The Presbyterian HRC Community Garden project presented an incredible opportunity to both improve the quality and sustainability of their garden design while also providing an invaluable demonstration for the community in soil remediation, water harvesting, and long-term urban garden design elements. Maintenance requirements for the different project sites varies, but in general, machinery is not required – skilled labor is, instead. A unique characteristic of this plan and the planning process is that the partnerships built are a central part of each of the nine projects’ long-term success. Bringing different project stakeholders together allowed for an exchange of resources – where one party needed something, another was able to provide it. For example, the project paired middle school Food Justice Interns with another priority traditional Community Garden to provide much needed maintenance assistance.
Providing accessible examples is incredibly important for helping clients “buy-in” to a different process and to allow other community members to replicate what they are seeing at home or in their project. Any time we propose something new, it is important to demonstrate how the particular feature has worked well in the past.
Several of the priority sites designed as part of the plan were also implemented. This included the construction of a water harvesting system, soil sponges, and garden boxes at the Presbyterian HRC Community Garden, installation of water harvesting tanks and Food Justice Intern maintenance at the traditional Le Jardin Verde Community Garden, and improvements to Ilsa and Rey Garduno Agroecology Center and East Central Ministries Therapy Garden. To ensure a seamless transition to ongoing plan implementation (and in response to a plan recommendation) Bernalillo County created an Urban Coordinator position to facilitate ongoing project partner meetings with the project website (www.bccurbanag.com) as the primary networking tool and community resource for urban agriculture. Project partners continue to work together on overlapping projects (assisting each other with garden improvements and maintenance, for example) and in joint grant applications, replacing what can often be a competitive environment with one of collaboration.