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Resiliency is rooted in the ability to adapt to tremendous change. Environmental shocks and stresses in Minot, such as the 2011 flood, have heightened the need for residents to become more resilient than ever. As Resilience AmeriCorps VISTAs, Colin Hendrickson and Andrianna Betts are devoting one year of service to the City of Minot, implementing volunteer projects that help residents do just that.
Last year the 2016 class of Resilience AmeriCorps VISTAs joined the Minot Young Professionals, Minot Park District, and City of Minot to design an Adopt-A-Lot program. The program was created with a simple concept in mind: organizations or businesses in the community commit to caring for vacant land in their neighborhood. As a result, the program may help to reduce crime, increase property values, and improve the appearance of the community. On June 20th Adopt-A-Lot’s inaugural year was celebrated with a ribbon cutting provided by the Minot Chamber Ambassadors Committee.
“Adopt-A-Lot generated from Minot Young Professionals’ desire to provide an opportunity for community development in the valley,” said Megan Laudenschlager from Young Professionals. “We are so appreciative of the many partners that have come together to make this project a reality and for the support of Xcel Energy Foundation, which provided us grant dollars to move the project forward.”
There are nine groups participating in the program. From the Minot Air Force Base three groups have adopted lots including the 5th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, 5th Civil Engineer Squadron, and 741st Missile Squadron. Additionally, CHS SunPrairie, Little Bear Daycare, Magic City Lions, Minot Commission on Aging, Minot Lions Club, and NDSU Master Gardener Club are involved in the program. Each group has chosen a lot on the city-owned land along the 1500 and 1600 blocks of East Burdick Expressway to set up their community project. These projects include vegetable and pollinator gardens, community art, and a passive park. The groups are responsible for maintaining their lot until Sept. 30, 2017.
While there can be no permanent construction on the lots due to flood plain requirements, the program aims to transform the vacant land into a community asset.
“The Adopt-A-Lot Program is a pilot program for the City of Minot with a goal of empowering residents to repurpose underutilized flood prone vacant lots into community gardens or esthetically pleasing productive spaces,” said Robert Davis, the city’s planning director. “Ideally, the Adopt-A-Lot program could be expanded to other areas of the community to promote sustainability, beautify neighborhoods and grow fresh food for neighborhood residents.”
CHS SunPrairie had a few reasons for deciding to participate in the program. “One is that we were directly impacted by the flood as our main facility in Minot was flooded,” said Kayla Burkhart, a grain division manager at CHS SunPrairie. “Many of us were displaced for months as we had to work out of alternate locations. We also had employees and their families whose homes were flooded. Being able to help beautify some of the vacant, flooded lots in our community was important to us on a personal level.”
CHS SunPrairie plays a role in the global food supply chain, providing access to healthy food. The business also seeks ways to offer access to good quality food locally, and it will donate harvested proceeds from its garden to pantries in Minot.
“We will also be putting a swing on our lot this year as we hope that people from the community will come to the lots and spend some time enjoying the gardens along the river,” Burkart said.
The Minot Park District readied the vacant land for use, tilling several lots in preparation for the gardens. The park district’s involvement in the program is a reflection of its continued commitment to its mission.
“As the Minot Park District our job is to provide quality of life for our citizens,” said Ron Merritt, executive director of the Minot Park District. “That is why we have partnered with the Minot Young Professionals on the Adopt-A-Lot program. We believe this is a great opportunity to restore the empty lots for future flood control and bring our community together for a wonderful cause.”
Developed with the intention of contributing vibrancy and resiliency to the community, the 2017 Resilience AmeriCorps VISTA class members are working with the groups to track volunteer service hours throughout the summer as one way to measure the program’s impact. When stakeholders in the Minot community work together, a resilient Magic City is possible.
“We’ve managed to transform an unused lot into a communal gathering space without costing taxpayers a dime,” said Hendrickson, a Resilience AmeriCorps VISTA. “The commitment that these organizations have to their community inspires me.”