Residents across Baltimore have plenty of ideas for how to turn blighted lots into something green. Some people want to plot vegetable patches and fruit bushes. A neighborhood group thinks plants would complement a public mural. A drug rehab center wants to create a meditation garden for clients.

A collection drive Sunday at the Parks & People Foundation office garnered dozens of tools to help make those plans happen. By late afternoon, organizers had collected a pile of rakes, shearers, drill kits, weed whackers, utility brooms and about 60 pairs of work gloves.

The tools will help fill five tool banks throughout the city that are managed by the Community Greening Resource Network (CGRN), said Anna Evans-Goldstein, an AmeriCorps VISTA member and West Baltimore coordinator for the city green-space initiative Power in Dirt.

"A lot of the neighborhoods we work in, both residents and groups don't have the resources to buy their own tools," she said.

The mayor's office launched Power in Dirt in August to helps residents and community groups adopt city-owned vacant lots and turn them into gardens, parks and other green spaces.

"Green spaces have an extreme positive effect on a community and as a city as a whole," Evans-Goldstein said. "Especially in an urban environment, where you have a lot of concrete and paved roads, greening the area really lifts up both the atmosphere and well-being."

The program helps communities transform blight into something positive, she added. Residents who are tired of people dumping trash into vacant lots can turn them into a nice space.

It has helped introduce gardening to people who haven't had the chance to try it, said Christine Kingston, another VISTA member and citywide coordinator for Power in Dirt.

"It also teaches new skills to the young and old," Kingston said.

Most of the lots are places where abandoned buildings have been demolished.

"Some of them are totally overwhelmed with weeds. Some of them still have the concrete foundation," Evans-Goldstein said. "The majority of them have a lot of rubble embedded in the soil."

The program is still collecting tools. People who would like to donate can call Kingston at 410-448-5663 to set up a time.

A workshop will teach residents about gardening topics, including water conservation, soil science and how to evaluate sites. The event is scheduled for Jan. 28 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Sojourner-Douglass College. A donation of $1 to $3 is requested.

alisonk@baltsun.com

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