Many neighborhoods have opportunities for creating or improving green space. Incorporating nature into your neighborhood will improve the aesthetics, create places to connect with nature, and help mitigate the urban heat island effect. Green space can also serve as a meeting place, bringing neighbors together for events and other projects. Explore the ideas below for ways to work with neighbors to create or improve nature in your neighborhood.
Create a community garden. You may be able to use vacant land, an area of an existing park, or a neighbor’s yard to create a community garden. Not only will you be able to grow your own, healthy food, but you will connect with nature and your neighbors.
Visit Community Gardens of Tucson for more information.
PRO offers both small grants and technical assistance for neighborhood projects. They assist groups working together to mobilize and build upon existing talents and resources within the community.
Share food resources among neighbors. Anybody with a citrus tree knows one can not possibly consume all of the fruit on their own! Share the leftover fruits and vegetables from your garden with neighbors. You can also plan a neighborhood market where neighbors can trade or give-away fruits and veggies.
Iskash*taa Refugee Harvesting Network
Iskash*taa is an inter-generational group of refugees from Africa and Tucsonan volunteers harvesting approximately 20,000 lbs. of fruits and vegetables each year from backyards and local farms. These nutritious foods are then redistributed to refugee families from many countries and other Tucson organizations that assist families in need.
Desert Harvesters is a volunteer-run, grassroots organization based in Tucson, Arizona, USA. We strive to promote, celebrate, and enhance, local food security and production by encouraging the planting of indigenous, food-bearing shade trees (such as the Velvet mesquite or Prosopis velutina) in water-harvesting earthworks, and then educating the public on how to harvest and process the bounty.
Create a neighborhood park. You may be able to use vacant land or an area of natural habitat to create a small park. Take care not to disturb natural vegetation, but incorporate ways for neighbors to enjoy the environment.
Remove invasive and non-native plants. Some exotic plant species are actually harmful to our desert environment because they “crowd out” native species and can be more prone to fires since they are not adapted to our dry and hot climate. Buffelgrass and fountain grass are among the most dangerous invasive plants to our environment. Develop a neighborhood action plan to remove these plants and help stop them from spreading into the natural desert.
Visit the Buffelgrass Information Center for information about how to identify and remove buffelgrass.
Visit the Sonoran Desert Museum’s Invaders Program to learn about other invasive species.
Arizona Native Plant Society’s Grow Native brochure (pdf) provides native alternatives to invasive species.
State of Arizona Prohibited, Regulated and Restricted Noxious Weeds
Restore natural habitat, such as washes. Many neighborhoods in Tucson have washes and vacant lots. Collaborate with neighbors to develop a plan to restore damaged habitat and maintain it in a healthy condition. If your neighborhood doesn’t have any natural habitat, consider volunteering for restoration efforts in the community. Here are some organizations your neighborhood can get involved with:
Tucson Audubon Society
Tucson Audubon Society is dedicated to improving the quality of the environment by providing education, conservation, and recreation programs, as well as environmental leadership and information. The Tucson Audubon website holds information on local conservation issues, provides resources for birdwatchers, and announces current events, volunteer opportunities and news.
Sky Island Alliance formed in 1991 when a group of concerned citizens came together to protect the Sky Islands adjacent to Tucson. New volunteers come out all the time, whether they are seasoned backpackers or have never looked at, much less know what a topographic map is. With field weekends scheduled every month of the year, there are events that suit those that are just looking for a day trip just outside of Tucson to those that would like to try a few nights out under the stars.
Sonoran Desert Weedwackers
The Sonoran Desert Weedwackers (SDWW), an outgrowth of the Southern Chapter of the Arizona Native Plant Society, is a community network of volunteers that began in 2000 with the goal of eradicating non-native invasive grasses with the particular focus on buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare) in Tucson Mountain Park.
Learn from Community Models. There are people throughout the community working together to make Tucson more sustainable. Learn from their projects and use the strategies in your neighborhood.