Working On The Brightside

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Published on: Aug. 15, 2012

A small corner in St. Louis is now brighter and greener thanks to Brightside St. Louis and its many generous supporters. Four years in the making, the demonstration garden and learning center adjacent to the Brightside office is finally complete.

Many organizations contributed financial or in-kind donations to the project, and the installation of the garden required more than 1,000 volunteer hours, which were contributed by the U.S. Marine Corps, Master Gardeners, Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Flora Conservancy and Brightside volunteers. In one week’s time, the site was transformed from a barren city lot into a vibrant community garden.

Twenty Marines broke ground on the project in the blazing summer sun. They spent most

of the week moving tons of rock, spreading truckloads of mulch, and installing 2,700 native plants, shrubs and trees. Despite the heat, they stayed positive and engaged and wanted to learn as much as they could.

Throughout the week, the Marines developed a sense of ownership in the project and a strong connection to the community. By mid-week, they had requested to stay in St. Louis an extra day to participate in the first educational workshop and connect with the residents who would reap the benefits of their hard work. The community welcomed the Marines with an outpouring of appreciation and support. Each day people drove by and honked, waved or shouted encouragement. Local restaurants donated breakfast and lunch every day and neighbors brought food and drinks, including one young boy and his mother who brought Popsicles.

Showcasing Natives in Nature

Brightside’s Neighbors Naturescaping program focuses on enhancing green spaces in neighborhoods throughout St. Louis with an emphasis on planting Missouri native flowers, shrubs and trees. Project leaders request material from a recommended plant list and participate in educational workshops. Visitors to the new demonstration garden and workshop participants will be able to see the recommended plants in their natural growing conditions.

Also, the new learning center is home to the Neighbors Naturescaping hands-on workshops, which provide the perfect opportunity for neighborhood leaders to learn about native plants and sustainable practices.

The vacant lot adjacent to the Brightsideoffice had been an eyesore in the neighborhood for more than two decades. Turning this lot into a beautiful green space met Brightside’s mission, so they turned to MDC for help. Mary Lou Green, Brightside executive director, contacted Urban & Community Foresters Rob Emmett (now

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