New community garden beautifies Englewood area

July 14, 2010 8:13:43 PM PDT
Chicago's Englewood neighborhood is often viewed as a hot spot for gang violence and other crimes. However, some residents are hoping to change that reputation with a new community garden.Several area residents attended the opening ceremony of the historic Englewood Rail Station's New Heritage Station garden and mural Wednesday. With funding from the Exelon Foundation and the work of grassroots organizers, the garden was opened in hopes it would provide a safe place where residents of all ages could come to explore.

"I can look on my back porch, and see it, and it's quite an improvement. I'm very proud of it," said Juanita Ross, an Englewood resident for 70 years.

"I like seeing it all, the greenery," 60-year Englewood resident Margaret Fuller said.

Wednesday's ceremony paid tribute to fallen police Officer Thor Soderberg, who was gunned down last week.

"We salute his life and his legacy," said John Paul Jones of Greater Englewood Community.

Community activists started working on the garden at 549 W. 63rd Street last May. The fenced-in garden includes flower beds, flowering trees, benches, an open space for children to play, and a walking path.

Openlands, an organization that supports green space, coordinated all the funding for the garden.

"It's designed to support the significance of the community and its importance as a rail center," said Openlands'Glenda Daniel.

"[We're] hoping that it is utilized for the purpose of exercise, marriages, you know, beauty," said Terina Cranshaw-Hodges of Stay Environmentally Focus'd.

The purpose of the garden is to teach the African-American residents of the community about their history and to let them know abot their future and the contribuytions they need to make and to provide them with a place that is peaceful.

The central feature of the garden is a colorful, larger-than-life-sized mural that depicts the community's history as an important rail junction. The former rail station served as a stop for African-Americans arriving from the South during the Great Migration.

"Finally, this state was able to kind of get it done, do the mural and connect the history, and educate the public," Jones said.


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