Conference paper

The yard goes on forever: Community initiatives in maintaining and revitalizing local open space

Informal greenspace Urban renewal Cities and towns Open spaces Urban planning Melbourne
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Abstract: Open space has long been a valued amenity in metropolitan settings for the multiple dividends delivered: active recreation, passive leisure, conservation, scenery, community gardens, environmental management. Small parks contribute singly and collectively to the quality of urban life but often face distinctive problems and challenges in terms of access, utilisation, safety, management and upkeep. Yet such spaces constitute a tremendous resource as local foci for collective action aimed at creating more sustainable cities. Community engagement is vital for such spaces to realize their potential. This paper reviews efforts to better utilize and manage a particular type of neighbourhood greenspace. This is the internal reserve inspired in early twentieth century Australia by international experiments in best-practice worker housing and upper-middle class garden suburb arrangements as a discrete shared space ringed by houses and with a multiplicity of uses. Since their creation in their hundreds throughout estates often now almost a century old, internal reserves have in many instances remained intact only by default as bland grassed spaces, like big under-utilised backyard. Of most interest here are instances where residents have seized the opportunities to reinvent these spaces through new gardening and leisure initiatives. The paper reports on three success stories in the Melbourne suburbs of Keilor, Footscray and Reservoir. The larger significance of the findings is in identifying empowering pathways for enriching the environmental and cultural capital of a more sustainable suburban environment.

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