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Over 30 volunteers turned out for the first Green Alley Makeover on Saturday, September 24, 2011! The crew pulled weeds, pulled trees, disposed of garbage, mulched, and planted on 17 properties. Many thank-yous go out to neighbors, Hamline Midway Environmental Group (HMEG) members, Hamline Midway Coalition's Community Building Committee (CBC), and our Master Gardener Diane Fraser. The alley was transformed when trash-filled, overgrown, and untidy spaces were cleaned up and planted. Plus, some block residents connected for the first time while others strengthened their relationships throughout the process. Better neighbor connections and well-kept spaces can help prevent crime such as illegal dumping, graffiti, and residential burglaries.
The vision of the project was to support residents who want to improve their alleys for water quality, safety, food production, and aesthetics. This block on Charles Ave between Griggs and Syndicate got 20 property owners on board with a green alley pilot project, and in exchange, received organizing help and volunteer assistance for a Green Alley Work Day from the CBC and HMEG. One alley resident and work day volunteer expounded on the benefits of the event: "Many alley [spaces] that looked derelict now look clean and tended-to. I met neighbors I'd never spoken with before, and had great conversations with residents I almost never see. [Plus] I got to use a weed wrench!" Another volunteer said, "Extreme Alley Makeover should be the name of this program - beautiful transformations of neglected space!"
Dozens of block residents turned out only to be greeted by many volunteers from the greater neighborhood who were there just to lend a hand for the day. HMEG and the Southeast Como Improvement Association lent a large supply of tools that was supplemented by Hamline Midway resident Chad Giblin. Our Master Gardener, Diane, was an inspiration and energetic leader that would not accept an unfinished job. Further, she lent her truck that was used to rip out stumps of weed trees (this activity went on for about 5 solid hours). The crew hauled 10 truckloads of weeds and brush to the compost site, and 1 truckload to the Ward 4 Clean-up day. Concurrent timing was all part of the plan. Lots of transplant daylilies and hostas came from area yards, and a nice batch of natives plants came from Horton Park community gardeners and friends from the University of Minnesota. Short native plants will hopefully colonize some of the cleared spaces, and provide food for native pollinators.
Once the majority of the hard work was done, the group came together for a chili feed potluck provided by neighbors. A perfect accent to the productive day.
Residents along the alley are thankful for the volunteer's work and report that their alley has greatly improved. They recognize many benefits from this type of greening, including community building, crime prevention, and beautification.
Thanks to HMEG's Steph Hankerson for contributing to this post.