5 Great Groups Protecting & Promoting Urban Green Spaces

Green spaces, such as parks, woodlands, and community gardens provide people with a place to relax and engage in recreational activities; they also help to improve air quality and regulate temperature. Here, in no particular order, are some organizations dedicated to promoting and preserving our cities' green spaces.

First up, at #1, we have Metro Blooms, which partners with communities to create resilient landscapes and foster clean watersheds. Among its projects is Boulevard Bioswales, which engages residents in North Minneapolis to convert the city's traditional turfgrass boulevards into plantings in order to improve water quality and provide food for pollinators; the initiative also hopes to beautify the area through the addition of flowers.

The organization offers a suite of workshops that aim to help home gardeners make their yards more resilient. Through its Sustainable Landcare Training, participants can learn how to properly care for native plant gardens. Trainees can also attend a three-part certificate program that covers stormwater basics, site hydrology, and other related topics.

Coming in at #2 is Depave, which works with various community-based organizations with the goal of helping disenfranchised groups overcome social and environmental injustices through urban re-greening. It seeks to transform over-paved places into resilient green spaces, as well as promote workforce development and education.

With several completed projects in the Portland Metro area, Depave relies on volunteers, known as Green Thumbs, to monitor past project sites and support the group's partners with maintenance activities. These tasks include pulling invasive weeds, trimming or pruning tall vegetation, applying mulch, and properly disposing of trash.

Next up, at #3, we have Baltimore Green Space. It promotes vibrant neighborhoods and a healthy environment through land preservation, research, and community advocacy. The organization works with the local government and other nonprofits to ensure that policies support those who care for the city's forests and other green spaces. Among its accomplishments is the development of city legislation that favors the preservation of urban oases.

Its Forest Stewardship Network is composed of residents and experts from various other organizations, such as the U.S. Forest Service and the Baltimore Ecosystem Study. The network holds quarterly meetings as well as hands-on workshops, which train locals to identify and remove invasive vines.

Taking the #4 spot is Greensgrow, a nonprofit that seeks to promote social wellness through community green spaces. The group runs two garden centers, various food access programs, and other projects which often result in permanent employment. The organization grows food year-round at Greensgrow Farms, focusing on crops that are in high demand.

Its Greensgrow West space is a community hub that features a garden center, greenhouse, mini-farmstand, and a variety of neighborhood-centered events. The group also provides various workshops led by local experts and staff instructors, tackling topics such as seed starting, garden planning, and urban homesteading.

Finally, at #5, we have Project GREEN, a citizen-volunteer organization that invests in public landscaping projects and promotes environmental awareness in the greater Iowa City area. It focuses on beautifying green spaces, parks, roadsides, and public school grounds within the metro region.

In July last year, Project GREEN hosted its first Open Garden Weekend. The event allowed locals to tour more than 30 local gardens. The event was inspired in part by the Buffalo Garden Walk, a New York-based event of a similar nature that draws tens of thousands each year.

Every winter, at the Iowa City Public Library, the organization hosts a series of free educational presentations about various gardening and environmental topics. Over the years, it has initiated and maintained numerous beautification projects, including working on the historic Ned Ashton House.