The Sugar House Community Garden project exemplifies the ‘power of positive community engagement,’ not only for those in the immediate surrounding area who grew tired of the blighted, abandoned Fairmont Park tennis courts, but for others within and outside the community who have been attracted to the project by the ‘positive energy’ being emitted by those engaged in improving their surroundings.
Government and civic groups struggle with ways to motivate constituents and residents to becomr involved, even to express their thoughts via convenient public forums like Open City Hall, SLC’s on-line forum for civic engagement, but often with little success. In many instances, the strongest force is those who oppose an issue, e.g. Walmart’s request to rezone its 2705 East Parley’s Way property or the initial Parley’s Historic Nature Park Management Plan. While those issues and others like them have and do engage a portion of the community, the energy is more often negative, pitting neighbors or colleagues against one another, sometimes permanently.
Capturing that energy to overcome a ‘negative’ situation and turn it into a ‘positive’ one, like the Sugar House Community Garden project is doing, has experienced similar success by other groups such as NeighborWorks Salt Lake (formerly Neighborhood Housing) that has helped engage residents in positive ways to ‘improve’ rundown neighborhoods by fixing them cosmetically or providing accessible low interest loans, making it easier for new home buyers to purchase or businesses to invest in those areas. YouthWorks, an outgrowth of this program, helps prevent gang activity by providing positive activities and pre-employment skills for youth 9-14.
Salt Lake City community crime prevent involvement programs sponsored by the Salt Lake City Police Department e.g. Neighborhood Watch, Mobile Neighborhood Watch, and Operation Safe Passage have also helped band neighbors and residents together to be more aware of potential crime and prevent it. The outcome of these programs is one that, in the process, causes neighbors to get to know one another better and look out for each another while making that neighborhood safer and more desirable for current and future residents.
Check out the Sugar House Community Garden blog for more information on that project including their fund raising garage sale to be held on the site of the Fairmont Park tennis courts at 2225 South 900 East on April 30. Donations may be dropped off at the Sugar House Boys and Girls Club, just east of the tennis courts, between 12 and 9:00 p.m. on Friday, April 29.
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