February 14, 2007

Designed with ecological intent

Note: Edited on February 21, 2007. I am exploring neighborhood landscapes that are citizen-based and designed with ecological intent (for habitat, stormwater management, heat island reduction, &c.). I refer to these landscapes as nature-made sites. The first in the series is the Ivy Narrow Bird Habitat (Preserve) in New Haven, CT. I will also look at the Le Conte Butterfly Habitat project in the Le Conte neighborhood of Berkeley and the coastal prairie plant community project on Ohlone Greenway by the California Habitat Indigenous Artists. (If you have any recommendations, please submit in the comments section.) Left Vacant lot at Ivy Street and Dixwell Avenue, 2001 Right Ivy Narrow Bird Habitat* with perched water table/ pond, 2006 Image source: Urban Resources Initiative Community Greenspace Program In the 1990s, a residential building was demolished at the corner of Ivy Street and Dixwell Avenue, thus creating a vacant lot. The lot is located in the center of Newhallville, a working-class black neighborhood in New Haven. The city mowed the lot, but a particular neighbor with the support of family and neighboring friends wanted to significantly improve the lot. In 2000, this group of private citizens applied for an Urban Resources Initiative (URI) Community Greenspace Program grant to work on the vacant lot. URI is a community nonprofit and its Greenspace Program is a partnership with the City of New Haven and the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.

In initial meetings with the neighborhood alderperson, the group was advised to limit its improvements to the perimeter of the lot. However, the group envisioned more than a "side yard." After the perimeter of the lot had been planted including street trees on the south-side of the lot, the group held another design meeting and articulated their desire to create an urban bird habitat. The group developed a restoration plan with the help of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection’s Urban Wildlife Habitat Program. The restoration plan was implemented over the course of two years, transforming the weedy lot into a bird sanctuary. (The habitat/ preserve is located 1 mile east of the Beaver Ponds ecosystem.)

*The nature-made site is now known as the Ivy Narrow Bird Preserve.

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