Grounded in Sustainable Urban Landscapes

Grounded Strategies is expanding its grassroots stewardship and land reclamation programming to develop more sustainable urban landscapes to bring about healthy and resilient communities.

The City of Pittsburgh suffers from chronic and increasing levels of vacant lots due to pressures exerted by macroeconomic forces including deindustrialization, urban flight, and more recently, worsening income inequality. The current parcel maintenance system structure does not allocate enough capacity to maintain all vacant parcels. This results in overgrown vacant parcels concentrated in our most vulnerable communities. Those parcels that are maintained, are clear-cut with no regard for the ways in which the land could be serving social and ecosystem services for the neighborhood.

These vacant lots compromise the quality of life for residents, negatively impact property values, and represent a missed opportunity for conservation of urban green space. To respond to the absence of proactive and innovative land-use strategies, Grounded supports grassroots community clean-up and beautification efforts through our CommunityCare program.

CommunityCare is a public land stewardship program that supports people to care for vacant lots and urban greenspace in their communities. The program has been active since 2017, and has grown to cover 6 City of Pittsburgh neighborhoods as well as the borough of Wilkinsburg.

Program participants, or ‘stewards’, are provided training, tools, and continued support to perform self-directed clean-up and beautification work on their own time. Examples of steward activities include; litter clean-up, tending street trees or gardens, site beautification, among other options. Stewards, who must be residents of the neighborhood, are then compensated for their work.

With the support of the Richard K Mellon Foundation, Grounded seeks to build upon our urban green space stewardship programming by (1) sustaining existing stewardship efforts under the CommunityCare program, (2) growth and development of the CommunityCare programming (3) implementing strategies for environmental restoration and vacant land maintenance within active CommunityCare stewardship areas. Example outputs of such projects include; meadow establishment, rain gardens, bioswales, edible landscaping, permaculture-informed lawns/gardens, etc.