Green ties that bind

Q&A with Nature Sacred’s new VP of Design & Sacred Places, Daniel Greenspan, and Firesoul Donald Quarles


It was in the basement of Celebration Church— just steps away from what would become Kirby Lane Park, that Daniel Greenspan and Donald Quarles’s paths first crossed.

At the time, Donald’s neighborhood was pulling together, determined to do something, though they didn’t know quite what at the time, about the refuse-strewn vacant lot on West Saratoga Street. And Daniel was working with Bon Secours Community Works Neighborhood Improvement Program, where part of his purview was partnering with neighborhoods on greening initiatives.

Seven years have passed since they first met. 

Donald is the Firesoul this of many-faceted Sacred Place; this once vacant lot is now alive with the sounds of horseshoes thudding onto the ground, peals of laughter, and tranquil moments of peace in the Serenity Garden. And Daniel now serves as the VP of Design & Sacred Places at Nature Sacred.

We recently sat down together with Donald and Daniel, who enjoy the kind of relationship born from having spent countless hours together, ideating, inviting, collaborating— building. Excerpts from that conversation, both reminiscing on the experience of bringing Kirby Lane to life and how that experience is informing Daniel in his new role, follow.

[Donald]: What do you remember about those first meetings about Kirby Lane— before it became Kirby Lane Park?

[Daniel]: “In a way, it was a constant conversation that happened in different ways and in different forms…

What do you recall?”

[Donald]: “At first, we just knew we wanted to clean it up… the more we talked, the more we imagined what it could be.” …

[Daniel]: “We designed the space by being in it— hours and hours— people would come by and we’d ask them their thoughts.” …

[Donald]: “Some (of our ideas) would hold in our imaginations— and others would float away

We were sitting around— on the tree trunks— trying to meditate on what the park’s design would look like in different areas… 

We looked at that wall— and I thought of the serenity prayer. Me and Daniel put our heads together and we said— a Serenity Garden. We had (one particular) square area; we used it to create the Serenity Garden…

… Looking at the wall, we thought, what type of mural would represent the serenity prayer? He and I and the artist stood out there trying to figure out— what type of mural would represent the serenity prayer? And we came up with birds…

Birds go through a lot outdoors and have a lot to deal with in the elements; they have to figure out how to stay warm and stay alive. 

“Outdoor Birds Adventure. That’s the name of the mural.”

[Donald]: What made you want to join Nature Sacred?

[Daniel]: “(though it requires an incredible amount of work) … the more you dive into a project, to create a green space, the more you get rewarded for it… that’s the easy part in a lot of ways. It’s maintaining that’s the hard part- that takes commitment; upholding standards. You don’t get the same rewards- and that’s real love— constantly taking care of something, trying to keep it alive. 

That’s the real part of Kirby Lane that Donald is sticking with— and that’s one thing that attracted me to Nature Sacred— the ability to support the spaces AFTER. Nature Sacred is willing to stick around to make sure these spaces are around 20, 30, 40 years—” …

“I’m excited about the opportunity to work with many  different communities, to support each community and each projects’ unique needs… to do that we try to be responsive and aware in each situation.

[Donald]: As a landscape designer— what is your favorite feature of the park?

[Daniel]: “I love that it was designed FOR programming— designed in a way that easily accepts use— for individuals in private moments, community moments— and to be part of the street life. It’s designed to be part of the street life.”

What is yours?”

[Donald]: “For me, the thing most special about the park is the park as a whole— it’s something we never had or dreamed of— all we had was blight, vacant homes— a whole row; vacant homes, trash… now we have a beautiful park, events! People look forward to the events we hold.

I like the stage area because we have concerts; I like the swing and slide area because I see the kids playing, I like the horseshoe pits because we see the adults throwing horseshoes, I like the Serenity Garden because you see mothers and fathers sitting down, looking at the Serenity Garden and hopefully they are praying, trying to find themselves out of hurts, habits and hangups. That part stands out because this is a healing park for a community that’s been down for years. …

[when we started to imagine what it could be] we wanted plants so beautiful— they would be like looking at fireworks. … Today, the brightest and most exciting thing on this block is Kirby Lane Park.”