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Monday, April 9 • 5:30pm - 7:00pm
POSTER: Examining Community Gardens as a Source of Ecological and Social Connectivity in Cities

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AUTHORS: Elsa Anderson*, University of Illinois at Chicago; Nakisha Fouch*, Clemson University; Monika Egerer, University of California, Santa Cruz; Melissa Davidson, Arizona State University; Mysha Clarke, Purdue University

ABSTRACT: Community gardens are socially and ecologically embedded spaces where urban residents can cultivate plants and build community. Gardens typically arise when people mobilize to reclaim a vacant space for food production or in response to economic crises, and success is dictated by community engagement and network support. Many cities have thriving or fledgling community gardening programs, which, to different degrees, are sanctioned by stakeholder groups that provide materials, education, and support to gardeners. New York City, NY, Chicago, IL, and Baltimore, MD, are three such cities. While gardens are touted as a “gold-standard” use for urban vacant land, the role of urban gardens in the larger urban matrix is poorly understood. Here, we compare the spatial aggregation of municipally-sanctioned community gardens in NYC, Chicago, and Baltimore, and demonstrate via circuit-theory simulations the degree to which gardens connect green spaces and people in cities. Although NYC and Chicago have similar patterns in garden distribution and size, gardens in NYC are likely much more important as sources of green space for residents than those in Chicago. Baltimore has the fewest gardens, but they are larger and more evenly dispersed, resulting in more equitable access across the urban landscape. By investigating systems of urban gardens at the city-wide scale, we suggest that gardens are ecologically and socially beneficial, but that the degree to which this is true may be easily overstated. Furthermore, planning for future gardens should consider city-wide context and focus on developing gardens in locations that will synergistically improve social and ecological connectivity.

Monday April 9, 2018 5:30pm - 7:00pm CDT
Monroe Room