Grounds for Change: Activating Vacant Land

Peabody High School Ecological Garden


Tags: bioremediation, brownfield, canola, collaboration, education, garden, highschool, learning, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, remediation, schools, soil, students, testing, youth

Engaging high school students in a brownfield renewal project on school grounds.

Through a partnership with East Liberty Development Inc. (ELDI), GTECH managed the site behind Peabody High School for three years, involving community members in the reclamation of the vacant space. The site is now being transitioned to an ecological garden through Pittsburgh Permaculture and the Borland Green community.

The lots behind Peabody High School were vacant and trash-covered. When East Liberty Development Inc. asked GTECH to become involved in 2008, much of the foundation from the prior buildings still remained in the ground, with scraggly weeds growing up around them.

With the help of some energetic high school workers associated with the Student Conservation Association, GTECH removed bricks and rubble, installed an attractive split-rail fence, and planted a field of canola. Students from nearby foster homes, schools, after school programs and congregations grew sunflowers on the site over the next two years while keeping the trash off the site and the weeds low. They learned about urban soils while performing soil tests, the importance of community participation while picking up strewn litter, and design while creating their own vision for the space. Students' design ideas have been integral to maintaining the site.

As the neighborhood and school continues to change, so does activity on the site. However, 2011 brings a new, permanent vision to the site, as determined community menbers seek to purchase homes adjoining the lots and establish Borland Green Ecovillage. The project's founders envision a "sustainable future for the village" involving sustainable food growth, storm water catchment, and new community space. The site is being developed as public/private green space with design help from Pashek Associates, Pittsburgh Permaculture, rain garden specialists and GTECH. A community charrette-short-term design workshop-is planned to help generate ideas for the development. Funding for this project is supplied in part by The Sprout Fund, Heinz Endowments, and the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh.


Troy Hottle, GTECH Strategies

All images courtesy of GTECH Strategies.

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