This ugly Hamilton lot will soon become a home for insect growth and plant life

This land soon will become a pollinator park that can help pollinating insects, and also feed people at the nearby New Life Mission. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
This land soon will become a pollinator park that can help pollinating insects, and also feed people at the nearby New Life Mission. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

In a celebration of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., two dozen volunteers on Saturday will begin creating a “pollinator park” that will provide nectar and egg-laying locations for insects, and also will provide fresh food for the nearby New Life Mission.

The volunteers will meet at 9 a.m. Saturday on two scrubby pieces of land next to railroad tracks at the eastern edge of Hamilton’s Second Ward neighborhood, also known as Riverview.

“It’s about 9,000-square-feet of nothing,” said city resident Jeff Gambrell, a leader of the project who has created an environmental organization called Go Green Hamilton.

“The whole premise behind the pollinator park is to take a vacant city space that has nothing but turf and to transform it into a pollinator oasis, so to speak, to have a diverse array of plants, perennial, drought-resistant.”

The city, which owns numerous vacant properties across its 17 neighborhoods, is looking for people willing to buy or rent vacant lots that it regularly has to mow, at an average cost of several hundred dollars per year.

The project was one of 10 statewide that won a grant from ServeOhio, a governor-appointed commission on service and volunteerism, announces grant awards to support local Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service projects on Saturday.

The Hamilton project received $1,742 from ServeOhio, and was the only one in Greater Cincinnati to do so. The nearest recipient was in Wilmington.

“We are proud to support projects like these that have a lasting impact and remind us all that Dr. King’s legacy of service continues to live on,” said William Hall, ServeOhio executive director. The program’s grants came from American Electric Power Foundation and AmeriCorps.

Felix Russo, pastor and director of the New Life Mission, said the mission will benefit from vegetables that will be grown on the properties. Plus, the improvements will make the area look better.

The volunteers will clear honeysuckle and other brush, and create raised beds for flowers and vegetables that will be planted in the spring.

“That lot has been an area that there have been homeless in it, it has been a really bad-looking lot,” Russo said. “So it’ll really help, not only with the pollinator park, with the insects and everything, but it’s really going to help with the look and beautification of the area.”

“People respond to the conditions that they live in,” Russo said. “When you make it look nice, it helps them with their dignity.”

New Life Mission provides food to the needy and also offers help for them in finding employment and filling other needs they have.

ExploreHow Hamilton’s New Life Mission is growing its help for the poor
The New Life Mission will benefit from the nearby pollinator park. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
The New Life Mission will benefit from the nearby pollinator park. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Retiree Alfred Hall has researched and chosen plants “to make sure we have the most intentional-looking, beautiful garden we can,” Hall said. “Once it’s established in two to three years, it will be drought-tolerant, with low maintenance.”

The Rev. Victor Davis, who has organized Hamilton’s Martin Luther King march annually since 1986, liked the plan when told of it this week.

“It sounds like a great idea,” Davis said. “Anytime you’re doing anything that can help the community — be it the immediate community, or the community at large — I think that’s great.”

“When I’m in town, I see folk constantly going over there (New Life Mission) to eat, and the church has programs, so I’m all for that,” Davis said. “I think that’s tremendous.”

“When you help to beautify things, it lifts people up,” Russo said.