Important steps to take for a successful and sustainable project
1. Bring everyone to the table
Consider involvement of all possible stakeholders. Who might be interested in this project? Here’s a list to get you started:
- Teachers, students, parents, administrators, maintenance staff
- Neighbors, neighborhood organizations and community businesses
- Local elected officials
- Landscape Architects
- Portland Public Schools Facilities Maintenance
- Portland Public Services (maintain school grounds- formerly Portland Public Works)
- Parks Division & City Arborist
- Cultivating Community
- Maine Audubon
- Master Gardeners, etc.
Be sure to bring everyone to the table early on and solicit questions, concerns, and visions. Make it clear that not everyone’s vision will be accommodated, but that you want to hear all possibilities first. People generally understand the group process and appreciate being asked!
- Have a copy of the site map on hand for notes*
- Brainstorm lists of goals, concerns, and stakeholders
- Consider sources of support, including grants, fundraisers, and donations of materials.
- Consider ahead of time how the project will be maintained
- Develop a plan not only for the site but for
Involving stakeholders early on is crucial for project sustainability, and also helps build community! A project driven and led by one or two people is much less sustainable, especially if that person (or people) move on to another site. When many are invested, the project belongs to the community.
*Site maps may be available from your administrator, site maintenance staff, PPS Facilities Maintenance (Doug Sherwood), or at the City tax assessor’s office. Large-format copies may be made at Kinko’s or Xpress Copy on Fore Street.
2. Bring in a design professional – ideally a landscape architect, or garden expert, if the project focuses only on a garden. This is of crucial importance for many reasons. The designer will help make sure the design addresses issues you had not thought of, like drainage, sunlight during different seasons, use patterns around the space, appropriate plant/tree choices, and creative options that you might not have known about.
- An accurately rendered plan will make the approval process with the School Department and the Parks Department go much more smoothly.
This is where a PTO/PTA greening committee and a good relationship with maintenance staff are key. Important considerations:
- Who will care for the space (whether garden or not)
During the school year?
During the summer?
Is there a summer program?
Are there neighbors who might be interested?
- Consider the creation of a maintenance calendar and solicit stakeholders to contribute in various parts (if they are not already cared for by the City/School staff).
- Is there a regular maintenance budget? If so, how will it be covered?
- How can care of the green aspects of your grounds be integrated into school culture and stewardship/responsible citizen goals, as well as curriculum?