Only when we work together can we effectively create real change and succeed in protecting nature for the benefit of all of our communities. Heartland Conservation Alliance is honored to work with many such Partners across the metropolitan area conserving wild places, restoring nature, and connecting people to the outdoors.
While there have been many projects on the ground since our founding in 2012, our Partnership Work Group chose four projects to highlight at our Fourth Annual Partnership Summit. The Summit’s theme this year is “Diversity in Conservation” and we have invited representatives from each project to share and inspire you this year. Here is a sneak peak of the projects you will hear about on Thursday, Nov. 16.
MUNICIPAL FARM RESTORATION PROJECT
Habitat restoration through conservation education
In 2006, community members demanded that the City of Kansas City “do something” with that “400 acres of unused land.” The City began an authentic community engagement project and created the Municipal Farm Sustainable Reuse Plan. The Municipal Farm site, a historic and environmental landmark, is home to a diverse waterways, wetlands, wooded areas, dramatic topography and scattered development. The Plan provides a path to revitalize the city-owned property at Municipal Farm and the surrounding Eastwood Hills neighborhood through an inspiring and attainable vision. This vision, and the strategies that back it up, set the stage for assessment and cleanup of known and potential brownfields, restoration of the site’s natural resources, and proactive, sustainable development that embraces research, innovation, and recreation. In 2017, as part of a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant, Heartland Conservation Alliance supported BoysGrow in regenerating 3,000 square feet of wetlands with native species at Municipal Farm. Future restoration work will take place on 20 acres of wetland with funding from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Project Partners: Blue River Watershed Association, Boys Grow, City of Kansas City, Eastwood Hills Neighborhood, Heartland Conservation Alliance, Kansas City Wildlands, Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Conservation Fund, and the Urban Waters Federal Partnership.
RESTORING VACANT LOTS
Revitalizing communities with green infrastructure
In Kansas City, it is estimated there are more than 18,000 vacant lots in the city center. These lots hurt neighborhoods because of the blight, dumping and influence home values. In 2014, Heartland Conservation Alliance began working with the city to explore how these lots might be turned into natural areas to improve home values, health and habitat. We served on the city’s task force on vacant lots, received funding from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to study lots and more recently, joined forces with the Urban Neighborhood Initiative to implement recommendations from the earlier task force and EPA grant findings. In keeping with their goal to revitalize urban neighborhoods in the area from 18th to 52nd Street and from Troost Avenue to Prospect Avenue, the UNI and Partners serving on the Green Spaces Work Group has been creating tools for groups to reclaim vacant lots and turn them into places of pride. Starting with a similar document that had been created for Detroit Future City, they built the UNI Vacant to Vibrant: Guide to Working with Lots, which was completed this year and released with a training workshop and mini grant program.
Project Partners: KC Environmental Management Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, Hall Family Foundation, Heartland Conservation Alliance, Mid-America Regional Council, Urban Neighborhood Initiative, and the Urban Waters Federal Partnership.
KC Parks with Purpose
Creating beautiful places for communities to connect to one another in nature
Since the 1930s, the Marlborough community in southcentral Kansas City, MO, has suffered significant decline, spurred by segregation laws that divided the area, disadvantaging the predominately African-American neighborhoods east of Troost Avenue. Since then, Marlborough has been slow to recover. Poor rental housing stock, trash dumping, crime and lack of a strong business base have distressed the community. Desperate for change, residents, business owners and community leaders have come together with a common goal to restore pride in the neighborhood and create beautiful, usable open space for children to play, families to gather and the community to leverage in building new economic opportunities.
Through the Parks with Purpose program, The Conservation Fund and U-Haul partnered with Heartland Conservation Alliance, the Marlborough Community Coalition, the City of Kansas City, Missouri and other local stakeholders to develop public green space around a wetland basin built by the city, which will include community gathering space, playground areas, an outdoor amphitheater, recreational opportunities and native gardens, all designed with extensive input from the Marlborough community. Our efforts also provide workforce training opportunities for residents and will generate additional economic investment within walking distance from the green space.
Project Partners: Marlborough Community Coalition, Heartland Conservation Alliance, Kansas City Parks + Rec, KC Water, Missouri Department of Conservation, The Conservation Fund, U-Haul, and Vireo.
Green Guard Stewardship Program
Inspiring and teaching neighborhoods to care for nature in their community
Green Guard connects youth and adults to nature in their neighborhood and teaches stewardship. The program provides networking opportunities between participants and environmental leaders and professionals. The hands-on curriculum immerses participants in nature and encourages them to “play” while learning. Lessons educate stewards about health and economic benefits of conserving and revitalizing natural areas. Teachers are volunteer experts from the conservation community including city planners, senior environmental planners, parks staff, Missouri Extension educators, community conservationists from state and federal agencies. Stewards learn innovative solutions and are given opportunities to put their ideas into practice as they respond to community needs. Upon completion of the program, stewards receive a certification that can further lead them into environmental careers. Since launching our first pilot program at East High School working on a 13-acre forest patch restoration, we have grown to include 7 Oaks Neighborhood and restoring vacant lots, the Marlborough Community Coalition and building a community garden, and Blue Valley Park restoring 20 acres of public land.
Project Partners: Community Capital Fund, Marlborough Community Coalition, 7 Oaks Neighborhood Association, Blue River Watershed Association, KC Water, Heartland Conservation Alliance, Healthy Rivers Partnership, Kansas City Parks + Rec, Missouri Department of Conservation, Urban Waters Federal Partnership.