Attention to Detail

The quality of your environment is one of the greatest and most overlooked sources of happiness.

CommunityCare stewards carry around butter knives so that they can clean the cracks in the sidewalks. LandCare contractors compare techniques because they take pride in their work. These examples illustrate the importance of community members playing a central role in greening their communities. When residents are the actors, greenspace maintenance takes on new meaning. It’s not just about getting a job done, it’s about making something look beautiful.

Left: Charmaine cleans a site near her home in Homewood. Right: CEO Works maintains a vacant lot in Manchester.

Last Saturday, I was out with the CommunityCare stewards in Homewood. We had gathered on a chilly Saturday morning to spruce up the Lang-Idlewild parklet.

Most of the time, the stewards work independently, completing work on their own time and at their own pace. Each CommunityCare steward champions a different area of the neighborhood. Some tackle an entire square block, others focus on a few vacant lots, and some have assigned themselves the role of caring for existing greenspaces. Grounded works with each steward to make sure they have the tools and training they need and are recognized for their work.

The detailers in action.

This past Saturday, a lot of attention was originally paid to the weeds and litter. But about two hours in, after we were starting to really see our progress, the stewards started talking about the grass growing up between the cracks in the sidewalk.

Now, this might sound like a minor concern when we’re talking about weeds the height of a person, but to the stewards, details like grass growing in the sidewalk are what matters. CommunityCare stewards have proudly declared themselves “the detailers,” thoroughly and deliberately detailing every site. Their approach is rooted in their role as community members. It’s a perspective of ownership and pride, viewing the workday as not just addressing the surface level challenges (trash/weeds), but the underlying causes that would invite someone into that space. One resident described it as subliminal because you might not be able to describe why space looks good but you can feel it.

After cleaning up the site, the stewards got to work cleaning up the sidewalk. A couple of minutes were spent debating the best weapon for sidewalk overgrowth. Some chimed in that they carry a butter knife everywhere so they can readily reach between cracks to pull up weeds. Others prefer a screwdriver for better leverage. Either way, those sidewalks looked brand new after the stewards were done.

A few days later, I was meeting with one of the contractors from the LandCare program. While the bulk of their work this time of year is mowing the grass, this contractor was telling me to look closer at his work reports. He named some specific lots where he had gone the extra measure to clean the curb, cut between the median, and scrub the sidewalk so it looked inviting and pristine. 

Before and after of a vacant lot now receiving monthly treatment through the URA LandCare Program.

The CommunityCare and LandCare programs prioritize responsible stewardship and connection to the community. Residents see the whole picture and are in the best position to respond to all of a greenspace site’s needs. Clearing a sidewalk can mean the difference between neighbors accessing a space or walking across the street to avoid it. Community leaders in the LandCare and CommunityCare programs are paying attention to the details. Grounded believes greenspace champions exist in every community, it’s just about finding the person willing to carry the butter knife.

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