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The Importance of Urban Green Spaces

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Studies continue to show what we at DUG have long known to be true – that green spaces are vital to urban areas for greater human health and a biodiverse environment.

Yet green space in Denver is disappearing faster than in most other cities, with pavement increasing from 19 percent of the city in 1974 to 48 percent in 2018.

If trends continue, by 2040 almost 69 percent of the city is expected to be paved or covered. Only New York and a few mega cities exceed that level of what planners call “imperviousness.”

Denver Urban Gardens has been preserving and maintaining land in metro Denver for 35 years, and we currently steward over 31 acres across six counties. Our community and school-based gardens are not only places where people can get outside for fresh air and exercise, but also grow fresh, healthy food for themselves and their communities and find genuine connection with their neighbors.

 

We’re proud to be the largest urban network of community gardens in the nation.

For the last 35 years, we’ve been working towards our vision to create a vibrant, healthy Denver Metro Area where everyone has access to growing space and the resources needed to grow their own food.

With the rise in obesity, depression, carbon levels in the atmosphere, and cultural division, it’s clear gardens play an important role in supporting conscious movement and healthy eating, mental and emotional wellness, carbon sequestering and soil building, and bringing together people in community.

Welcome Linda Appel Lipsius, our new Interim Executive Director

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As summer has transitioned into fall, DUG has also been undergoing deep changes. While 2020 has brought challenges to all of us, DUG’s resiliency has been tested in the face of economic uncertainty and organizational shifts. However, we remain grounded and inspired by our amazing community in your care of one other throughout this pandemic.

In late September 2020, Dr. Violeta García resigned from her role as Executive Director of Denver Urban Gardens after leading the organization for the past 10 months. We are grateful for her energy and service to DUG and wish her the very best in her next venture.

Today, we also delighted to announce that Linda Appel Lipsius has stepped up to serve as DUG’s Interim Executive Director. Linda joined the board of directors earlier this year and brings a wealth of entrepreneurial experience, as well as a passion for gardening, sustainability, and permaculture, to the team. We are grateful to have her guidance and dedicated leadership as we navigate these challenging times.

Meet Linda and learn more about where DUG is headed into 2021 and beyond!

Check out our new film, “The Portal”

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Pioneering hemp CBD brand, Charlotte’s Web Inc., has recently launched its inaugural film festival, “Our Stories,” which features four poignant stories of healing within the communities of their nonprofit partner organizations, including DUG.

We are thrilled to share their short film,“The Portal,” with you, where you’ll meet two DUG Garden Leaders, David Kissler and Linda Pakiser, as they share about their journeys to find physical and emotional healing through gardening in community.

Facts about the El Oasis Land Sale

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Denver Urban Gardens At a Glance

Denver Urban Gardens (DUG) was founded in 1985 on the belief that together, we can build connection, knowledge, and resiliency by growing food. Over the last thirty-five years, we have grown to include more than 180 community gardens spanning six counties, and we’ve further expanded our impact by offering horticultural and leadership training, youth education, and food access programs that provide free and low-cost access to seeds, seedlings and education around growing food.

What is happening?

A tough decision had to be made due to our current financial situation, the state of philanthropy, and the uncertainties related to the pandemic. DUG is under contract to sell about two-thirds of the land on which the El Oasis Community Garden is located. Selling a portion of one garden will allow DUG to continue our mission and serve our community of 17,500 gardeners in more than 180 gardens throughout metro Denver.

**2021 Update: DUG is requesting a variance from the City of Denver for the property on which the El Oasis Community Garden sits. If granted, the variance allows for the parcel split that will enable us to sell only part of the land while keeping part of the land as a community garden in perpetuity. Maintaining a garden in this part of the city is important to DUG, the El Oasis gardeners and the community at large.

After the sale, the remaining one-third of the land will be redesigned as the new El Oasis Community Garden. We anticipate being able to accommodate most of the El Oasis gardeners in the new garden and will support the transition of any gardeners who desire to move to another nearby garden. 

We plan to work closely with the El Oasis community as we redesign the new garden that meets the gardeners’ needs. We anticipate the new garden will have more than 30 garden plots and retain many of the features of the current garden, including the pergola and storage shed. 

In addition to El Oasis Community Garden, DUG owns six other properties. We have no plans to sell any of those tracts of land.

Why are you selling a portion of a garden? 

This decision was not made quickly or lightly; many alternatives were explored by DUG staff and board members. However, this land sale is part of a larger strategy for moving DUG forward for the greater good. 

Fundraising challenges associated with the pandemic have exacerbated financial challenges that were already in existence, specifically DUG’s reliance on a line of credit over the last several years. For example, From 2014 through 2018, DUG worked to meet communities’ requests and built 59 new gardens. Unfortunately, during the same time period, approximately $300,000 to $400,00 in annual funding that we had received for over a decade dried up, and a national grant of nearly $100,000 that had been received annually ceased to be available, as well. 

How will you prevent this from happening again in the future?

Moving forward, we are building a more diverse fundraising strategy, reworking how we fund and maintain our gardens, and engaging the strength of our community to ensure we can continue providing education and land access for everyone.

What happens if the sale doesn’t happen? 

Unfortunately, if this sale does not close as planned, DUG will cease to exist as it does today. The money from the sale allows us to pay off the line of credit, design and build the new El Oasis Community Garden, and establish the necessary reserves to ensure the organization’s sustainability moving forward. 

It is critical to make this transition a reality in order to continue to serve our entire community of 17,500 gardeners throughout metro Denver, many of whom rely on the land, seeds/seedlings and education DUG provides to feed their families and their communities. You can learn more about our community impact here.

How can I help? 

You can help DUG continue to support all of our gardeners by sharing facts about this situation. 

  • Share this webpage with other interested community members, friends and family members who may not have heard the complete story. 
  • Donate to DUG .While the sale of a portion of El Oasis garden does set DUG up for a sustainable future, it does not replace our need to raise funds to meet our annual budget this year and in the years to come. We need your financial support now more than ever.
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Black Lives Matter.

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Words matter– but they are not enough. 

Black Lives Matter.

We recognize the power of this statement and why we are saying it loud and clear–because we know Black lives are valuable, precious, and inherently worthy. We are speaking out to acknowledge the pain that our Black community members have been experiencing for generations, as well as listening to their lived experiences, and recognizing the existence of racist structures, policies, and actions responsible for the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Abrey, Elijah McClain and so many more over the past 400 years. 

Dismantling Systems of Oppression 

We can and will do better. DUG is committed to showing up, doing the work, and being held accountable for actively challenging policies that perpetuate inequities for our Black communities. 

Photo courtesy of Nikki A. Rae Photography.

This looks like: 

  • Developing internal policies and systems to ensure that our team, our volunteer leaders, and our board of directors represent the communities we serve.
  • Creating and implementing a framework for organizational transformation centering justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.
  • Ensuring our entire team is trained in anti-racist work. This includes mandatory trainings for staff, volunteers, board members to understand how racial inequalities have seeped into our everyday actions and to understand how we continue to perpetuate racist ideas and policies with our actions or our inactions.
  • Supporting actions and policies focused on food sovereignty at both the local and state levels by bringing equity to the forefront and ensuring our Black and Brown communities are represented.
  • Putting community voices at the forefront as we move forward with strategic planning. In 2020 we engaged in a listening tour throughout the Denver metro area. We surveyed our community and held 45 focus groups to better understand  how we can serve and support our communities in all that we do.

While these are a few examples of how we plan to get started, we also recognize our gaps and where we will continue to challenge ourselves for personal and organizational growth. Our commitment to our Black community is to listen, to take feedback, to embrace and amplify Black and Brown voices, and to take bold action with a humble heart.  

As we move forward as educated allies, unwavering advocates, and courageous leaders for our community in the name of love, we also commit to acknowledging critical feedback and doing better when we get it wrong.

Let’s get to work.