Diving In: Community Partnerships Come to Life

Up until the past two weeks, most of my CEDaR internship work on the Westwood project consisted of independent writing, research, and team meetings. Recently, however, I’ve gotten a taste of what it’s like to work face-to-face with community partners and residents.

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(From left) Carter McBride, myself, and Shirley Li present our poster at the Art Gym community workshop in Denver

The first of a series of community meetings my team attended was a workshop at the Art Gym in Denver. Organizations and partners from the area gave presentations on current green infrastructure features in parts of Denver on residential and commercial scales, and plans to install more in the future. Attendees could listen to presentations and ask questions of each group. The posters and slideshows were quite impressive and informative. I learned about some fascinating green infrastructure projects and proposals for Denver, from permeable driveways and walkways to green medians and rain gardens; all of which provide environmental, health, and aesthetic benefits. The projects make so much sense, and it’s a wonder that these modifications aren’t more widely accepted as feasible and practical methods to mitigate the multitude of climate change related problems we are facing today.

The next day, I attended a meeting at the BuCu West Development Association to discuss the Via Verde Project in Westwood, which hopes to decrease pollution and improve tree canopy cover and walkability in Westwood. Representatives from Trust for Public Land, the Park People, the  Denver Forestry Department, BuCu West, Cool Connected Westwood, and Westwood Unidos were in attendance. My team presented our current work on a surveying instrument for the tree planting project and community science partnerships for Westwood and for the Denver Public Schools. The dates for the neighborhood tour and for the canvassing days were established, and the details of the project were slowly coming together. I finally had some faces to put to our partners, and my team felt more poised to continue our part of the project.

Taking a break in the shade by one of Westwood’s community gardens along the Via Verde

My team reconnected after the Fourth of July, and the following day we took a tour of the Via Verde with Walk2Connect and Westwood Unidos. Norma, a longtime resident of Westwood, identified important places to stop on the upcoming Via Verde tour on July 28th, and shared stories that gave these places life and meaning. There are multiple gardens, and the community is full of beautiful art projects done my community members. Art is at the heart of the neighborhood and it serves to unify the community. I felt incredibly lucky to get an insiders perspective on the neighborhood and what is important to the residents.

El callejón de la amistad (Friendship Alleyway) in Westwood

Aside from the Westwood project, we had another conversation with Denver Public Schools about the future of our tree planting curriculum partnership. It’s turning into what could be a long-term relationship, and I’m thrilled to be a part of planning it. I hope to continue to work on this project throughout the summer and remotely after returning to Burlington this – and perhaps in person sometime in the future!

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