In the Junction neighborhood, the gardens have been popping up, one by one, in recent years: one at Nebraska and Junction avenues, near St. Anthony Church, another at Belmont and Forest avenues, and a third at Lucas and Hoag streets.
This summer, a fourth is set to open at Blum Street between Junction and Hoag on a series of three vacant lots donated by the city and the Lucas County Land Bank, transforming a strip of empty lawns into a lush green space that planners hope will bring together community members young and old.
The latest plot, affectionately named “What Blooms on Blum,” is the largest urban garden planned by the Junction Coalition to date in a continuing effort to transform lots once occupied by blighted homes into vibrant gathering places. Once the site’s greenhouse is completed, Junction Coalition will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony later this summer.
“Food sustainability, economic growth and streams of revenue, ways to promote literacy with growing crops, peace education, bringing people together for social capital on one block — that is what we are promoting with environmental justice,” Alicia Smith, Junction Coalition director, said.
Along with the greenhouse, the garden features raised beds for produce, a flower bed to attract pollinators, and rain barrels painted by neighborhood youth under the supervision of local artist David Ross. Tree Toledo donated fruit tree saplings (peach, apple, and cherry), a row of 10 viburnum shrubs, which will act as a wind barrier at the west end of the property, and canopy trees (pin and bur oak, linden, and hackberry, all native species) to provide shade cover.
Children painted rain barrels that will collect water from the corners of the shed, rear. The children were helped by Toledo artist David Ross.
Toward the plot’s northeast corner sit about two dozen stools sawed from tree trunks. Right now, they are positioned, expectantly, in a circle. Megan Powell, an environmental specialist with Junction Coalition who is planning the garden, envisions them serving as a play site for children and a place for people to speak or give environmental demonstrations.
“We want to tear down some barriers,” said Ms. Powell, who has an outline of Ohio with “419” tattooed on her forearm and wears a turquoise cap that reads “The Rebel Scientist.”
“There’s generational gaps where the older people don’t interact with kids,” she said. “Right here, we invite everyone.”
Ms. Powell speaks like an educator, comparing the rain garden’s layers of ground cover, sand, and rocks to hamburgers. She envisions What Blooms on Blum serving as a place for Junction elders to teach children to care for their environment — particularly those at Pickett Elementary School, which sits just a block away.
“The sustainability aspect can move on for generations,” she said. “A lot of times, we tell our kids things and it goes in one ear and out the other. We have to show them.”
Just two weeks ago, Toledo officials received a $30,000 grant to transform Junction Park, at Nebraska and Junction, into an outdoor performance space. Along with this project and Junction Coalition’s other two gardens, What Blooms on Blum could not only bridge generation gaps but create spatial linkages on both the street and neighborhood level. Together, the four sites form a chain running between two community institutions: St. Anthony Church and Frederick Douglass Community Center to the northeast.
Ms. Smith, the Junction Coalition director, said What Blooms on Blum is strategically situated near the neighborhood’s business district to promote future investment while creating green space in a residential area.
“There may be a corridor that develops, almost a chain of community and urban gardening investments,” said David Mann, Lucas County Land Bank president and CEO. “These sorts of investments turn not just into grassy lots but into community spaces.”
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