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Cyclists Of Change

Local Climate Action Forum Yields Big Plans

In early March, a Climate Action Forum was held at the Greater Park Hill office. The event was hosted by the Sustainable Neighborhood program and facilitated by Accelerate Neighborhood Climate Action. Approximately 25 engaged citizens attended.

The forum started off with everyone identifying what we do in our personal lives to mitigate climate change. This was a great opportunity to learn from each other and expand our own individual actions. Examples included: composting and recycling, eating less (or no) meat, working on water quality research, building a greenhouse, and the ever-popular bathroom mantra, “if it’s yellow, let it mellow.”

Following was a discussion surrounding our strengths and challenges in our neighborhood. The room was filled with excitement as GPHC Executive Director Sierra Fleenor rattled off numerous accomplishments. Our Registered Neighborhood Organization currently provides educational classes for composting, rain barrels, Garden-in-a-Box, seed classes and soon, beekeeping. (For details about upcoming GPHC programs, check out page 11.)

In addition, we provide a free farm stand during the summer, hold a sustainability fair, work with CU Boulder to improve our stormwater issues and much more. As a neighborhood it was noted that our strengths included diversity, the market at 35th and Dahlia at the Holly, historical patterns of collaboration, our libraries and our neighbors being receptive and responsive.

We also were required to identify our challenges. Some examples included people don’t understand Colorado’s dry climate, people who engage in unmindful social media and commentary, having inadequate time and money, and a divide between residents – in particular, racial and environmental injustice.

Nine big goals

These exercises set up a brainstorming session to set our sites on what we wanted to accomplish over the next two years. The group identified nine different categories:

• Creating Community Resilience

• Increasing the Urban Canopy

• Access to Healthier Mobility Options

• Promoting Dark Night Skies

• Promoting Going to Scale

• Lower Footprint with Larger Handprint on our Food

• Water Saving and Protection

• Changing Waste to a Benefit

• Increasing Solar and other Renewable Energy

From this list the group landed on the six most important topics, laid the groundwork to begin work in our community, and set up teams to tackle specific areas.

One team will work to expand education and communication, as well as growing classes and workshops. They will be looking to increase volunteer participation and opportunities for youth. They’ll be searching for sustainable champions for each block within Park Hill, working to create connectivity and strengthening bonds.

A second team will work to increase our urban canopy by building the infrastructure to plant more trees in common spaces and in areas of need. We have previously reported that Denver is No. 3 in the nation for the heat island effect. Trees can certainly help mitigate this issue. The team will work with the Park People and city foresters to help residents with planting trees and hosting training sessions, and seeking donations to help low income residents purchase trees for their properties. This group will also provide help with the May Garden-in-a-Box giveaway.

In efforts to save and protect water, another group will work with area restaurants to educate on topics such as providing water only upon request, helping expand reuse and recycling efforts, ditching straws and creating rain barrels. These ideas also were included for other business. The group is hoping to hold a Mothers for Climate Change event in May. Other work will include targeting parts of our neighborhood that have experienced flooding to promote native plantings and mitigation of stormwater. A simple idea is to encourage people to  take “combat showers” and turn the water off while brushing teeth and shaving.

Working to reduce waste, the Changing Waste to Benefit group will focus on promoting existing programs, promoting growing ideas at monthly GPHC meetings and holding events at the Dahlia campus. An expanded outreach plan is in the works to north and northeast Park Hill to build on our diverse and talented group of neighbors.

Foot down, hands extended

A wonderful idea came from this event, which generated another working group titled “Decrease Footprint, Increase Handprint of Food.” Group members hope to attract a grocery store to the food desert of our northern section of the neighborhood.

This group was able to take the negative connotation of carbon footprint and turn it into a positive action item. Work will also include promoting the wonderful work being done at the Dahlia campus, the Denver Food Rescue, the GPHC food pantry, our garden classes in collaboration with our local businesses, libraries, recreation centers, schools and faith communities. The goal is to create affordable access to materials through the GPHC greenhouse, seed banks, and cooking classes.

Our last working group, Access to Healthier Mobility Options, will focus on getting people to walk more and changing mindsets to ditch their cars and promote pedestrian mobility. They will conduct a Transportation Fair at the library in collaboration with organizations such as Walk2Connect and Bikes Together.

This is an exciting time in which more citizens are coming together to solve critical issues. We cannot solely rely on government to fix what ails our world.

The Sustainable Neighborhood program and Accelerate Neighborhood Climate Action are jumpstarting action by communities in which we get to be the drivers of change, as well as fostering relationships amongst neighbors.

Tracey MacDermott is chair of the board of Greater Park Hill Community, Inc. Active in the Registered Neighborhood Organization for many years, MacDermott was the 2012 recipient of the Dr. J. Carlton Babbs Award for Community Service. This year she received an INC Neighborhood Star Award, for her advocacy on behalf of Park Hill. She was trained as a Climate Reality Leader in 2017.

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