I think a wonderful alley clean-up project would be to make it green! A friend of mine recently did this ( with city approval ) in a Montreal alley. The alley was not being used for access to garages, fire escapes etc so it was first cleaned up, then they laid new ground! A rich soil made of compost was brought in :) Neighbors quickly volunteered and were very enthusiastic about the project.
Everything taken into the new green space alley was environmentally friendly, re-cycled and donated! It was turned into a beautiful area where organic tomatoes were growing from planters hooked into the walls and cucumbers were grown in box-beds. A trellis with bean vines...even a bench! Neighborhood children made birdhouses and feeders from recycled materials and brought them over.
Not only was this green space a beautiful place to sit and watch birds eat from feeders and relax...but it grew fresh food! Fresh food which could be donated to food banks and homeless shelters! Many people go without eating fresh fruit and vegetables due to cost or availability, I think making more green space in cities for people to grow their own food would go a long way toward solving the problem.
Editors Respond: Stacey, we agree with your friend's idea, and thanks for sharing it with us.
If alleys aren't being used, as in this case, there is plenty of room for urban agriculture, new play spaces for children, community gathering space, or allowing the alley to revert back to naturally permeable pavement because the concrete or asphalt is starting to disintegrate!
Maybe this was a gravel or dirt alley to begin with, though; Stacey didn't say.
It's especially wonderful to see a block unit (well, we might be stretching things a bit--maybe this was just a block) combine to use their wits instead of money to come up with a solution to a problem and an unused opportunity.
Once again, try the asset-based community development approach. Fresh thinking every time, even when it comes to alley clean up.
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