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On December 18th 2022, the DUG community and Denver suffered a terrible and unexpected loss when Ainslie O’Neil was struck by a car while biking and died of her injuries at the age of 32.

Ainslie was a landscape architect, designer, educator, and gardener. She was passionately devoted to creating a better urban future in the city of her birth–physically, socially, economically, and culturally. She was a part of the teaching team for the Denver Permaculture Design Course for ten years and was recently working with DUG in multiple capacities: re-designing a garden with her landscape architecture skills and as a member of the Therapeutic Garden Initiative task force. She was honest, brave, focused, energetic, and endlessly positive in all her endeavors. 

Ainslie was a committed bike commuter, sometimes arriving at classes or meetings after riding for an hour or more. Her death at the hands of a car, while biking along a dedicated bikeway, is a particular wrench of the knife for those of us who knew her.

While the city is continuing to allocate more money for bike lanes and biker safety, we still undeniably live in a car culture, with all the speed, violence, and chaos that can bring.

Ainslie loved her family, her friends, her dog, and her garden. She loved the mountains, a long hike, and a good soak in a hot tub. She loved collaborating with others to create space for radical change, and exposing students to new ways of seeing the world. Her memorial at the Posner Center was a testament to her impact, as people from all walks of life and all parts of the city and beyond packed in to celebrate a life well lived.

Here within the DUG staff, Ainslie had many friends, and her passing has shocked and stunned us. Of course death begets life, and every day is an opportunity to weave elements of Ainslie into our what we do: a deep care for people and the land, a tireless motivation to do good work, and a recognition that taking time in the garden is one of the best ways to care for ourselves, finding peace and belonging wherever we are. May she lead us on.