Melissa Surratt Speaks out about Chicago’s Community Gardens

PhD candidate Melissa Surratt spoke last Thursday at the 2011 Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) conference.

Surratt spent the better part of a year studying the public opinion of Chicago’s community gardens. Specifically, she spent more than nine months studying nearly two dozen gardens in various locations throughout Chicago. And she was finally able to present her research to an audience of her peers last week at the EDRA conference.

Surratt’s presentation, which she chose to entitle “Approaching the Community Garden: How Physical Characteristics May Effect Impression” was interesting, as well as informative.

Surratt began her presentation by telling those assembled around her that “Community gardens provide city dwellers with a buffer against many urban stressors.” She went on to note that they also provide those city dwellers with “access to healthy and inexpensive food.”

She also noted, however, that “There are many competing land use needs in a city the size of Chicago, and housing projects, libraries, schools, and other government buildings often receive funding before, or at the expense of, community gardens. But government funding—along with public support—is often needed to sustain Chicago’s community gardens, and city planners need to learn how to better obtain this funding and this support.”

Surratt then spent several minutes outlining a list of ways city planners might go about improving public perception of community gardens. She also talked about how these city planners might go about applying for government grants and funding.

She suggested, for instance, that city planners consider designing community gardens in open, well-lit areas, to maintain a sense of safety and accessibility. She also suggested that city planners ought to consider designing more formal, elaborate gardens with plenty of trees, because Chicago residents seem to respond most favorably to gardens of this sort.

Her presentation was succinct and straightforward, and the audience members in attendance left the conference knowing more about city planning and community gardens than they had when they arrived.

For more information about environment design and city planning, check out this CondoDomain article!

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