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Urban Sprouting: Bringing Nature Back to the City

June 7, 2010

As the sun set on Wealthy Street on a Thursday night about twenty people gathered in an empty parking lot. With shovels, hoes, and trowels in hand, we began digging on the patches of weeds and grass that has stood neglected for so long. The garden activism had begun.

This was the first event of Urban Sprouting, a Grand Rapids guerilla gardening group that I started. Guerilla gardening, in its most basic form, is planting flora and fauna on abandoned city land in surprising and creative ways. More elaborate guerilla gardening sometimes involves the use of seed bombs and moss graffiti. Since the 1970s guerilla gardening has been used to provoke conversation about land use and can sometimes be a very politically charged statement against land neglect. Guerilla gardening has since branched out to over thirty countries, examples of which can be found here at the main hub of the movement.

The goal of Urban Sprouting is to get the citizens of Grand Rapids to reclaim the fallow land on the sides of our roads and next to the city’s abandoned buildings. We want people to ponder the place of nature in our world that has been confined by streets, houses, and skyscrapers, all in an effort to bring awareness to our disconnect from the soil and the sun. We want to bring color and joy into people’s lives in the simplest way possible: through the beauty and grace of nature.

Perhaps we accomplished that in some way this past Thursday night on the corner of Wealthy and Fuller. We picked up the trash that had gathered, dug out the asphalt embedded in the soil, and replaced it all with a variety of plants and flowers. Overall it is just a small gesture, but one that everyone there that night felt excited to be a part of. Guerilla gardening is a way for us to practice pro-activism and to take back land that has been left to waste.

Environmental activist and poet Wendell Berry says “a seed will sprout in the scar”. Therefore let us sow seeds in the soil scarred by neglect and bring beauty and vitality back to Grand Rapids.

For more information or if you want to get involved in future events, visit Urban Sprouting’s website or e-mail us at urbansprouting@gmail.com . We’re always looking for helping hands and plant donations.

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