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Going Beyond Cleaning Up the Environment: Community Renewal Projects

In many towns and cities, entire neighborhoods have become run-down, contributing to crime and environmental damage. Trash, including hazardous materials, is often left on streets or on vacant lots instead of being disposed of properly, potentially polluting the ground, air, and storm sewer systems. The circumstances are reversible, but it’s a big project that requires a lot of time and resources from different people. Communities don’t deteriorate overnight, and they also don’t regenerate overnight. Sometimes, though, all it takes is one project to provide the kick start that’s needed to set the community back on track.

Many community regeneration efforts start with building restoration and preservation, but they also can include projects such as cleaning graffiti; setting up community gardens; clearing vacant lots; improving park spaces; and organizing community gatherings such as festivals and suppers, community education efforts, and crime prevention strategies.

The New York Restoration Project, which reclaims, restores, and develops parks, community gardens, and other open spaces in New York City, says its volunteers have removed more than 875 tons of trash from the city’s parks and open spaces, reclaimed more than 400 acres of under-resourced and run-down parkland, and provided free environmental education programming to more than 10,000 at-risk urban youngsters.

To find community regeneration projects across the country, run an Internet search that includes the words sustainable neighborhoods. To find assistance in your area, start with your local city or town council, which is likely have lists of organizations or staff members that deal with the municipal planning and social issues that this type of project entails.

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