Walking Wednesday: Moores Park Neighborhood

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Moores Park Neighborhood is located at the northern tip of Lansing’s Southside. This weekk we got to meet with Natalie Molnar, who took us around the neighborhood to see how things were in the community.

One of the projects we got to hear about is a Love Your Block Mini-Grant project that will be completed soon. The Moores Park Neighborhood Association is coordinating the creating of a sign, which will welcome people to the neighborhood. The neighborhood is currently very close-knit, and hosts many events year round. The sign will help strengthen the sense of identity that the neighborhood has.

We toured the neighborhood, starting at the St. Casmir-Moores Park Community Garden. The garden is on a large plot on Barnes Avenue, and supports the whole neighborhood with its vegetables, as well as flowers and other plants.

We were also to check out Moores Park, which the neighborhood is based around. The park is nestled against the Grand River’s south shore, overlooking the GM Assembly Plant. There are several amenities to the park that draw crowds from across the city, including playground equipment, a pavilion, as well as open fields and trees. The park is connected to the rest of the city by the Lansing River Trail.

It was exciting to visit the Moores Park Neighborhood this week. We’re all excited to see the completed project, which will be a great asset to an already great neighborhood.

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St. Casmir-Moores Park Community Garden on West Barnes Avenue
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Some of the many plants growing in the garden.
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Seeing the neighborhood.
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Plants in the median, one of the beautification efforts in the neighborhood.
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Moores Park
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Playground Equipment in Moores Park.

Potter Walsh Neighborhood Cleanup

 

 

This past Saturday, I had the privilege to join the Potter Walsh Neighborhood Clean-up. The goal of a clean-up is to have neighbors bring out the bulk items they have lying around, and have garbage trucks come in and dispose of them. This is a valuable service for a community, as it helps to clean up the neighborhood at no cost to the resident.

We met at 8:00 AM in front of the Eastside Community Action Center. The clean-up started out dry, but the rain started to fall shortly after . This didn’t stop around a dozen volunteers from helping out . The group was led by Willie Davis, a  man who has lived in the Potter Walsh Neighborhood for years, and was thrilled to see so many people eager to help. We split up into teams of three (one for each truck), and drove around the streets, looking for bulk items at the curb. In our team, roughly 10 or 15 houses took advantage of this opportunity, and they made it clear what a service this was. The curbs were piled with items, including old televisions, toys, broken electronics, furniture, and many other items that have piled up for years. Our team was able to knock out our portion of the neighborhood in an hour and a half. By this time we were all thoroughly soaked, but we got through a huge amount of trash, and were able to see how thrilled residents were to see a clean-up in action.

If your neighborhood is interested in hosting a clean-up day, please submit the Clean-up application below or contact the Neighborhood Resource Coordinator, Andi Crawford, at 517-372-5980.

NeighborhoodCleanUpAPP

 

 

Walking Wednesday: Holmes Street School Community

Due to a sudden (and much needed) thunderstorm, we had a shorter and more localized Walking Wednesday this week. However, we still got a chance to meet with MaryBeth Van Horn and Kelly Groll, who was able to give us a tour of the community garden, which also happens to be a Love Your Block project! The garden sits by the corner of Holmes St. and Malcolm X Blvd, and is open to any neighbors who want to use a plot to grow vegetables or flowers.

The garden has gone through several improvements over the past year. They have constructed a wooden walkway made out of donated material, in order to make it easier to get from plot to plot. HSSC, with help from students at Michigan State University, constructed worm pipes, which are designed to encourage worms to fertilize the soil. Perhaps most noticeably is the new Rain Water Collection structure at the back of the property.

Perhaps most exciting, as MaryBeth noted, is that the garden is a Poke Stop for Pokemon Go players, meaning the garden is being seen by a lot more people!

The garden is a definite asset to the Holmes Street School Community.

 

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In spite of the drought and a local groundhog infestation, the garden is looking good!

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The new rainwater collection facility

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Wormhole
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Newly installed lights

 

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A full view of the garden from the back.

For more information:

Holmes Street School Community Association

Holmes Street School Community Facebook Page

 

Walking Wednesday: Urbandale/Frog Holler

This week’s Walking Wednesday took place in the Eastside, specifically Urbandale and Frog Holler. We started our walk at the Allen Neighborhood Center, who was having their weekly farmer’s market. I got to try an Ethiopian Food Sample Platter from Teff-riffic , a strawberry balsamic ice pop from MI Pops, and tried Cascadian Galaxy Beer from the Sleepwalker Spirits and Ale Taproom inside the building.

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Allen Neighborhood Center and Farmer’s Market

After sampling the different types of cuisine, we ventured down Allen Street to the Urbandale and Frog Holler Neighbhorhoods. Despite the heat, it seemed like everyone was outside, on their porches, playing in the street, or walking to Hunter Park. We talked to a few neighbors, who mentioned that they thought there have been many improvements to the neighborhood over the past decade. Here are some of the pictures we captured.

The primarily residential neighborhood has a diverse housing stock, and lots of parkspace.

We also made sure to check out the neighborhood’s several community gardens and urban farms. Urban agriculture is a common use of vacant land in this area, and has given the neighborhood the opportunity to grow their own food.In addition to the smaller garden lots we saw, we went over to visit visited Half Barn Farm and Foster Garden, whose land was almost completely filled with plantings.

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Half Barn Farm on South Clemens
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Plantings at Half Barn Farm
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Foster Garden on Marcus Street
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Greater Lansing Food Bank, across the street from Foster Park

Next week we will be walking a few blocks west to the Holmes Street School Community. We are excited to see more of the Eastside, one of Lansing’s most diverse neighborhoods.

Walking Wednesday: Exploring the Westside

We mixed it up a little this week and decided to travel around our Walking Wednesday site on bicycle. With our bikes, the perfect weather, and the many sites on the West Side, we were able to get a real feel for the neighborhood’s character, assets, and challenges.

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Before we went exploring, we attended the Point West Art and Trail Project Groundbreaking Ceremony. This massive project is a collaboration of organizations, including the Saginaw Oakland Commercial Association, the Old Oakland Neighborhood Association, and the Westside Neighborhood Association. The grassy triangle between Saginaw Street and Oakland Avenue sits at the gateway to Lansing, but there is no real welcome to drivers coming from the west. Part of this project will include an art sculpture at this triangle, designed by local artist Fritz Olsen. This will act as a greeting to travelers, but instill a sense of pride for residents who live on the Westside.

Another facet of this project is the construction of a mile-long recreational trail that will allow for pedestrian travel across Saginaw Street and Oakland Avenue. As a result, the Westside and Old Oakland neighborhoods will no longer be cut off, and community ties will become stronger.

It was a great turnout at the ceremony, with project collaborators and supporters talking about the benefits of the project, before officially breaking ground. Below are some of the pictures.

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Mayor Bernero talks about the benefits the project brings to the Westside

 

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The community partners break ground.
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Some of the many collaborators who worked on this project.

After the ceremony, we biked around the west side. We talked about the rich history the neighborhood has, as the former home to the GM Plant. The neighborhood has a mix of big, historical homes, and smaller, newer ones, that gave it a very different feel as we traveled street to street.

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Visiting the historic Old Oakland Neighborhood

 

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The start of the trail project at Dunneback Park
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Flowers from Lansing’s Neighborhoods in Bloom program
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The stylish BWL Forbes Substation
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The expansive garden at the Letts Community Center
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The West Side is filled with historic homes like this one
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The former GM site, as seen from J. W. Sexton High School

We finished our journey at Harry’s Place, a family-owned restaurant and bar established in 1921. I ordered the Greek Burger, which turned out to be enormous, yet delicious. It was a great end to another great Walking Wednesday.

 

Walking Wednesday: REO Town

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For this Walking Wednesday, we headed to REO Town, to see the improvements made by the REO Town Commercial Association, using Love Your Block Grant funds. We met with Ryan Wert, who was able to tell us about the history and changes that the neighborhood has made over the years.

REO Town was originally home to the REO Automobile company and its workers. This vibrant neighborhood has recently seen a increase in interest, in the residential neighborhoods, commercial corridor, and parks.

Our first stop was to see the Love Your Block Improvements. The Riverview Church parking lot has undergone landscaping improvements, as well as new picnic tables. This is now a place that is accessible to anyone attending a festival, or just getting a bite to eat along South Washington Avenue.

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We then walked around the neighborhood for a while, seeing what the residential part of the neighborhood was like. We ended up at Scott Park, which connects to the Lansing River Trail at the point where the Grand River and Red Cedar River converge. There were a lot of people out and about, eating, playing on the playground, and fishing. Its not surprising that people want to live in REO Town.The parkland and water made it surprising that we were so close to the city center. DSCN0390DSCN0392DSCN0391DSCN0394

We looped around and ended our walking tour by getting Saddleback BBQ. This restaurant alone is reason enough to stop by REO Town, with some of the best food I’ve had in Lansing. There are a lot of exciting things to do in REO Town, including walking through the parks, going to the new stores, or checking out the art scene. It was definitely worth the visit!

 

 

Walking Wednesday: Old Everett Neighborhood

For Walking Wednesday this week, we headed south to Everett Park, which has seen a huge amount of improvement. Through a Love Your Block grant, the Lansing Soccer club, has improved the space and its functionality for their large youth soccer program.  The improvements included upgrades to the grass, a newly painted shed, increased greenspace.  They have hosted many workdays to remove trash and overgrown debris.  Many neighbors have expressed their appreciation for the upgrades to the park and the work of the Lansing Soccer Club families.

After checking out the park, we ventured around the rest of the neighborhood. It was a very comfortable walk, especially on a warm summer day. The Old Everett Neighborhood is a cozy neighborhood that seems tucked away, far from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the city. We got to look at all the unique houses, then ventured down to Poxson Park. All in all, a great time, and a chance to see one of Lansing’s great neighborhoods.

Hello Everyone!

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Hello everyone! My name is Scott Thompson, and I am the newest Americorps Vista for the Love Your Block program here in Lansing. Over the next year, I will be working with Clara to continue the implementation of the Love Your Block projects. Over the past week I have learned all about the great things that has happened here in the community, as well as the exciting opportunities we have over the next year to continue to improve Lansing neighborhoods, and get people involved in their community.

I recently graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo State with a degree in Urban Planning. During my four years there, I developed a passion for improving cities in a way that they can meet their full potential. I learned that community improvement starts with the residents who live there. Local citizens are the ones that see all the assets that a community has, as well as issues that need to be improved upon. This is why I was excited when I heard about this Americorps position here in Lansing. This is a program where the local government is working directly with the community leaders and residents to figure out what the best way is to guide and strengthen our neighborhoods.

There’s a good chance that you will see me sometime in the next year. I will be meeting with the community across all of Lansing’s neighborhoods. Clara and Brittany have created an amazing framework for Love Your Block, and I am excited to work with and add to this as we continue through 2016. I have not been here long, but I can already see that Lansing is a great city with amazing people. I hope you are as excited about our upcoming projects as I am, because I think we are in for a great year!

-Scott

A Farewell to Lansing

Picture this: Early June 2015, I moved to Lansing. Two nights later, I was repacking my suitcase, placing a quart of strawberries on the passenger seat of my apple green car and cruising along to Chicago…well, Oak Lawn. After a tumultuous drive of heavy rains and construction zones, I arrived in the Chicago suburb an hour and half after originally planned and easily recognized the girl who walked up behind me to check into the hotel. Standing there frazzled after cursing profanities along my drive and eating every last strawberry in the plastic quart, I turned around to meet Clara Martinez–a girl who I had only previously interacted with via email and Facebook messenger.

After a week of learning about poverty in the United States, the role of an AmeriCorps VISTA, and the exact inexact science of gathering volunteers; Clara and I made our separate journeys back to Lansing. Go back to my first blog post to learn about our crazy beginning week: from a CATA bus challenge to creating our own tour, we did it all.

I have pondered what my last blog post would be about. Would I tell our readers about what I created as the Neighborhood Resource Development Coordinator–from the Neighborhood Resource Guide to becoming a metrics savant, I have been able to develop some great neighbor focused documents in Lansing. Or should I tell the readers about the grantees and what they have done? Like I wrote to the grantees earlier, their projects illuminate the neighborliness, love and innovation within Lansing. Finally, should I tell the readers about my feelings–the people I have met and the experiences I gained?

Choosing to expand on the last topic, I would like to dedicate my final blog post to the family and friends I have gained within Lansing. From Doris, the Senior Planner, who never fails at showing me that the office can be a home to Roxanne, the Office Manager, who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is and keep her ducks in a row; I have learned much from these amazing, unique people. Director Bob Johnson illuminated how to be a kind, but assertive boss. The Planning staff, Sue and Bill, prove time and time again the importance of following rules, but also the willingness to change rules when they no longer work. The Development staff is a hive of worker bees, who use each day as a mission to help Lansing. Development Manager, Don Kulhanek, showed me his wizardry in in creating contracts and Jami Garver taught me organization. Barb Kimmel is a powerhouse, who set an example of loving yourself first and being your own spokesperson–especially as a woman.

Andi Crawford is a dynamic boss–never critical, always guiding and gave us the free space to be ourselves and own our work. Along with her, the Cities of Service team–specifically Saundra and Rachel–prove that kindness, collaboration, and a little elbow grease are the key ingredients in motivating VISTAs, volunteers, and city staff.

Going outside of my immediate worker peers, I want to thank Land Bank’s Rawley Van Fossen, Tri County Planning Office’s Ken Hall, and Digital Media Manager Valerie Marchand for being great friends, an awesome Millennial team, and fun dinner buddies.

Finally, I would like to thank my fellow VISTA. Clara Martinez is a beautiful human, unwavering in her convictions, and welcoming to every person she meets. Her laugh goes for miles and she never fails to make a person feel warm. Without her friendship, this could have been the hardest year of my life. Transitioning out of college, I felt clueless and moving to a new city where, at first, I knew no one was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Without the forced first year friendships and ice breakers of college, I felt lost on how to meet people–seriously, high school should really teach a class on how to make friends outside of institution. Clara became my best ally, biggest coach, and closest friend in Lansing–she is definitely in the future bridesmaid line up in that dream wedding scenario that we all secretly think about from time to time. Scott is lucky to have her as a work companion for the upcoming year and I am jealous of the time they will have together. I want Clara to know one of my favorite goodbye quotations from Peter Pan, “Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting” (J.M. Barrie). I will never forget you, Clara Martinez.

Lansing is a wonderful place to live. From living in the Moores Park Neighborhood to shopping in South Lansing, I felt the sense of community in this city. Lansing has such a small town vibe because residents take the time to know their neighbors, know the businesses surrounding them, and know their city officials. I will truly miss this unique, always crazy, kind of weird, magnificent place to live. This is not goodbye. I promise to come back to see the wrap up of the inaugural Love Your Block projects and visit my great Lansing family.

Ta ta for now,

Brittany Gordon