Transforming Vacant Lot Into Community Park

Transforming Vacant Lot Into Community Park

A group of 6 youth and young adults in masks stand around a wooden sign which reads "60th N Campbell Garden."“Many folks volunteered themselves as stewards,” said SWOP organizer Jasmine Serrano. SWOP is partnering with NeighborSpace to purchase a vacant lot and transform the space into a community park at S. Campbell Ave. and W. 60th St.

The idea of creating another community park came from collaboration between youth from SWOP and Oak Park’s Ascension Parish. The intention is to create another safe place for people to hang out. Neighbors’ hopes for the park include vegetable gardens and a play space for kids.

The design of the park hasn’t really been finalized at all,” said Jasmine. It is critical to collaborate with youth and neighbors because, “without input from more community folks, the park will be like one of many things that happen to community and not with community. I have relationships with young folks who live in the neighborhood who have helped with the cleanup, but we haven’t taken time to actually design it. So that’s the next step really.”

A group of about 26 people stand outside under a blue sky in work clothes and masks.

The vacant lot needs a lot of work before it’ll be ready. SWOP hosted one clean up day already. Jasmine said, “We spent about 4 hours raking, picking up garbage, cutting back weeds and removing any sticks and branches.” 

Despite all of the work ahead, Jasmine described hopes for the space: “There are other Neighborspace gardens throughout Chicago that I think are beautiful and elements I would certainly love to steal. One of the bigger issues I see is the need to maintain the garden regularly. If we can create a low maintenance space that doesn’t require all that much expertise that’s also accessible and welcoming, then I’m good.” 

Jasmine knows that vegetable gardens need attention and regular labor. The feasibility of a vegetable garden will depend on the interest and time of neighbors.

“It’s important that the space isn’t obnoxiously gated or locked, there’s spaces to sit, and we really want chess tables too. I can see it being wood chips and everything being made of reclaimed/recycled/repurposed wood. It can be low stakes enough, but act as a hub for events like yoga or some shows,” described Jasmine.

Jasmine also described the vacant lot as evidence of need for broader community care and investment. Jasmine said, “I want to share that my community needs love and support and encouragement and to be made to feel human and worthy and valuable and capable.” Creating a park together can be part of this work.

Under a blue sky with leafy green trees in the background, a group of about 15 people in masks stand in a circle around a man in a purple shirt who is gesturing to them as if explaining a plan. There are garden supplies, Dunkin Donuts, and other supplies on the dirt ground.Acquiring the lot is still in progress too, but SWOP organizer Harry Meyer and others are working to complete the purchase. “Moving forward we will be addressing the land acquisition issues and continuing to plan work days,” said SWOP organizer Amanda Reilly. 

SWOP is planning additional work days soon. The lot needs much more energy and support to become a comfortable space. Reach out to Jasmine, Harry, and Amanda if you want to join this process.


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