Two -tailed Swallowtail butterfly feeding on a blooming golden currant plant at TNC Ramsey Canyon Preserve.
Golden Currant Two -tailed Swallowtail butterfly feeding on a blooming golden currant plant at TNC Ramsey Canyon Preserve. © Liz Sockness/TNC

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Community Garden in S. Phoenix Gets Double Dose of Nature to Cool Hot Spot

Before the intense heat overwhelms Arizonans, The Nature Conservancy and TigerMountain Foundation will lead a community greening installation in one of the hottest areas in the Lindo Park-Roesley Park neighborhood in south Phoenix. Desert adapted plants including eleven trees, 86 shrubs and 25 cacti/succulents will add shade to a barren, dusty area located within the 19-acre Spaces of Opportunity community garden and farmers market at 1200 W. Vineyard Road.

The Lindo Park-Roesley Park neighborhood is one of the communities that participated in the Nature’s Cooling Systems project in 2018. Led by TNC, Arizona State University, Maricopa County Department of Public Health, Puente Movement, Phoenix Revitalization Corporation, RAILMesa and others, the project builds resilience to warmer, drier temperatures in the Valley through empowerment, education and resources. Through community workshops, residents developed Heat Action Plans aimed at identifying “hot spots,” or areas where they have experienced difficulty with heat. They generated ideas to increase comfort and safety during extreme heat days at these locations.

Each Heat Action Plan is a community’s north star in becoming cooler and more comfortable for residents. Primary concerns raised in the Lindo Park-Roesley Park’s Heat Action Plan included vacant lots and dust, risk of heat-related illness, and lack of resources for nature-based solutions such as trees and vegetation. The project area at Spaces of Opportunity is one of 31 hot spots identified by community members for the Lindo Park-Roesley Park neighborhood.

“Heat affects everyone in the Valley, but it affects some communities more than others,” said Diana Bermudez, director of special projects for The Nature Conservancy in Arizona. “In fact, some of these communities can be up to 13-degrees hotter than neighborhoods just two miles away.”

“It is important to us to be able to support this effort at a place that is bringing the community together, where they are learning about the power of nature and living healthier lives,” added Bermudez.

Ryan Wood – a local landscape designer -- co-developed the landscaping plan with input from Spaces of Opportunity and TigerMountain Foundation. TigerMountain Foundation, which empowers challenged communities through landscaping job training and reentry programs, will provide the workforce to implement the project.

"This work of trying to bring equity, engagement and fairness to the communities where I grew up and now serve is humbling...I'm truly honored, famished, blessed and beaten but ultimately steadfast and never defeated,” added Darren Chapman, TigerMountain chief executive officer and founder.

Spaces of Opportunity has transformed a food desert to a 19-acre food oasis offering individual gardening plots to families for $5 per month as well as larger lots and economic opportunities for residents interested in growing food to sell at their onsite farmers market on Saturdays.

“As we near the completion of Phase One of Spaces of Opportunity, we will have transformed a 19-acre lot which sat vacant for roughly 20 years, into one of the nation’s largest urban agriculture projects – with an ability to grow, prep, store, and sell directly back to the community and to the surrounding schools,” said Nicolas de la Fuente, director, Spaces of Opportunity. “Through a new partnership with

The Nature Conservancy, Spaces of Opportunity will see exponential greening of the site, and seek to become Phoenix's premier example for creative, common sense land use.”

Spaces of Opportunity is a partnership of TigerMountain Foundation, Unlimited Potential, The Orchard Community Learning Center, the Roosevelt School District and Desert Botanical Garden.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 79 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.