Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun
April 17, 2012
Whether filled with trash or home to violent crime, vacant lots have long been a nuisance for city residents. But when Christine Kingston looks at a vacant lot in Sandtown or Harlem Park and Poppleton, she sees a possibility.
As the general services coordinator for the city-run Power in Dirt campaign, Kingston and three other coordinators have a tall order: Attempt to covert Baltimore's estimated 14,000 vacant lots into green spaces, such as community gardens and small parks, owned by the communities that adopt and transform them.
Kingston moved to Baltimore from Detroit to work for Power in Dirt when the program started last August. She immediately began reaching out to people by attending community meetings.
"Vacant lots were always an issue," Kingston said. "I heard residents time and time again talk about the drug activity and how they've turned into crime zones."
The process to transform a lot is surprisingly simple. Community members or businesses tell Kingston they want to adopt a lot. Once they have a license agreement from the city, the adoptees talk to Kingston about their plans. A budget is agreed upon (anywhere from $1,000 to $25,000), grants are secured and work begins. At last count, Power in Dirt, which has a three-year term, has transformed 775 lots.
"It feels amazing to see the transformation, especially if it went from being a dumping zone to a garden," Kingston said. The pride is contagious. Kingston said she recently heard from a lot adopter who requested city resources to help clean up more spaces in Westport after they were finished transforming one in the neighborhood.
"She told me that they destroyed places where drug dealers went," Kingston said. "She actually said, 'There is power in dirt.'"