Open Voices Blog

Archives for posts tagged as "community"

A Landscape of Resilience and Perseverance

06/21/16 | View Comments

It has been an exciting year for a group of community gardeners in the Rockaway community of Queens, NY.

Beautifying the area included ground cover plantings.

Beautifying the area included ground cover plantings. Source: Giles Ashford

Last summer we spoke with Renae Reynolds about the progress of this Nature Sacred site, and we continue to see more participation, planting and construction (in partnership with Nature Sacred, Cornell, Drury University, USDA Forest Service, Till Design, Natural Garden Landscape, and NYCHA). This site, a post-natural disaster “Landscape of Resilience“, has proved to be a strong center of community and growth.

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Community Engagement: Tips and Strategies

06/07/16 | View Comments

For those who work or volunteer in the nonprofit world, engaging the local community is always on hearts, minds, and spreadsheets.

A gardener paints his sign with support from Carmen Bouyer. Photo by, Elizabeth Gilcrest, LOR Community Organizer

A community gardener creates a sign for his garden plot. Source: Elizabeth Gilcrest, Landscapes of Resilience.

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Nature Sacred community spaces open and thriving

05/24/16 | View Comments

A Brooklyn Nature Sacred community space opens to the public.

The curving walkway in the new Naval Cemetery Landscape. Source: Menelik Puryear

The curving walkway in the new Naval Cemetery Landscape. Source: Menelik Puryear

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Stewardship of Civic Sacred Space

05/03/16 | View Comments

“I’ve found that it’s usually the process of coming together as a community that makes a place sacred, not simply the existence of green space.”

A visit to Tanner Springs Park tends to include observing water life.

Portland’s Tanner Springs Park provides stormwater management and community engagement benefits.


Outdoor environments, particularly in cities, can deliver transformational benefits to users and surrounding communities. The experience of nearby nature can offer sanctuary, solace, and places for mindful reflection. Civic Sacred nature spaces can aid in community healing and connection.

What does it take to support and foster a community green space? In areas with a lack of funding or community engagement, it can be challenging. In many instances, challenges are overcome because of a few dedicated community leaders. Stewards of these spaces could be an initial community leader, one who volunteers to maintain a garden, or one who regularly visits because they recognize the value and healing within. Green spaces can be a powerful community powered mechanism for recovery after natural disasters or social need response.

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Healthy Communities for You and Your Parents

02/02/16 | View Comments

Health is often believed to be the outcome of personal choices, such as one’s diet, whether to drink bottled water, or how often to exercise. Yet health officials now recognize that one’s surroundings, from home to neighborhood, are equally important in promoting health. Spending time with family and friends, eating healthy, exercising regularly, and living in a community with accessible paths to parks and gardens are essential to maintaining good health and a positive mindset.

Neighborhood design facilitates older people’s outdoor activities.

In interviews with elderly apartment residents, ‘satisfaction levels’ were significantly higher among residents whose apartments overlooked natural settings, and among those who lived closer to certain kinds of outdoor settings.1

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The city has been likened to a poem…

12/22/15 | View Comments

Each month in our Open Voices blog we share insight from leaders and ideas advancing what it means to have sacred, open green spaces in our cities. This week we examine the aesthetic and poetic elements of civic sacred. 

“The city has been likened to a poem, a sculpture, a machine. But the city is more than a text, and more than an artistic or technological artifact. It is a place where natural forces pulse and millions of people live–thinking, feeling, dreaming, doing. An aesthetic of urban design must therefore be rooted in the normal processes of nature and of living. It should link function, feeling, and meaning and should engage the senses and the mind.”

In The Poetics of City and Nature, a writer calls for a new aesthetic theory of landscape and urban design. Anne Whiston Spirn wrote in 1988 that the idea of dialogue in creating a city is central. How we interact and move about in a city is the result of complex, overlapping and interweaving narratives.

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Urban Green Spaces: Bridging Differences

12/15/15 | View Comments

Each month in our Open Voices blog we share insight from leaders and ideas advancing what it means to have sacred, open green spaces in our cities. This December we examine the concept of “civic sacred”. 

Public discussion about the experiences and emotions of religion and the Sacred may be challenging. Although Civic sacred is not limited to traditional places of worship and consecrated sites, popular interpretations of Sacred are connected to religion and theology, and are interlaced with faith-based organizations. There can be assumptions of exclusion or possession, as expressed in dictionary definitions of sacred: Dedicated, set apart, exclusively appropriated to some person or some special purpose. This month, many religious organizations across the U.S. are re-creating sacred space through community greening activities designed to bring those with diverse beliefs together.

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Civic sacred: person, place, process

12/08/15 | View Comments

Each month in our Open Voices blog we share insight from leaders and ideas advancing what it means to have sacred, open green spaces in our cities. This December we examine the concept of “civic sacred”. 

People readily recognize the importance of positive relationships with friends and loved ones.  Relationships with places are also important aspects of a person’s wellness and expressions; more than a backdrop. Social activity and personal transformation in a green space contributes to what Nature Sacred describes as civic sacred.

Everyday encounters with nature in cities have the potential to promote inspiration, deeper thinking, mindfulness, and social and cultural connections, and may be transformational. A civic sacred green space emerges from engagement and interaction with the land, one’s body, mind and spirt, and other people. Place attachment is one concept that describes how civic sacred places may come to be.

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Act on Your Gratitude

11/24/15 | View Comments

This week we are reminded to express gratitude for the abundance of friends, family, and food we may take for granted. Last week we discussed the benefits of mindfulness in green spaces and the personal outcomes that experience provides.

What about the role urban green spaces play in bringing your friends and family together? Providing places for respite, recreation, and community connection, urban green spaces have the potential to improve individual and community well-being and wellness in multiple ways. In addition to physical environment benefits, participating in urban greening programs (e.g. planting a tree) is associated with community empowerment and social cohesion.1

Green spaces explicitly designed to support family and community activities fosters healthy and sustainable communities. Park preference research suggests large shaded picnic areas, play equipment, water features, sanitary facilities and open-air vendors or cafes increase attractiveness of parks for users who value community over individual uses.2 In addition, culturally significant gardens and planting strengthen a sense of community and tradition for minority or new Americans.3

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Overcoming the Mountain Pass

11/03/15 | View Comments

For the Lee family, their community garden represents Arirang (아리랑), a stirring Korean folk song with a message of overcoming an obstacle big as a mountain pass.”We were handing out flyers about an upcoming workshop and I saw the Lee family putting in a new garden sign. Mr. Lee sang the song to me. It was an honest, heartfelt moment. He was explaining how deeply this word connects with him, his family and his culture.”

This week, Renae Reynolds, a project coordinator and on-the-ground researcher in the Landscapes of Resilience project tells us about the dedication of the Lee family and others in their post-Hurricane Sandy community garden space at Beach 41st Street Houses.

Residents planted ornamental cabbage and mums in early October.

Residents planted ornamental cabbage and mums in early October.

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    About Us

    We are a private nonprofit that supports, informs, and inspires the creation of publicly accessible urban green spaces. We believe that every city resident needs nearby green space to provide opportunities for mindfulness, respite, and renewal. The Foundation has issued its final grants to build five Open Spaces Sacred Places and research the impacts on a variety of users with the hope that the powerful connection between nature, spirit and human wellbeing will be scientifically proven.

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