by Igho Herbert
The West Ward Neighborhood Partnership (WWNP) was established by the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley (CACLV) to help mobilize resources for the economic development of Easton’s West Ward neighborhood. WWNP also operates the Commonwealth’s Elm Street Program. Recently, the Partnership received a five-year, $730,000 Urban Ecology Grant from the Wachovia Regional Foundation.
The West Ward Neighborhood Partnership’s Urban Ecology Project seeks to assure a balance of the community’s urban ecology—the function and interaction of beneficial human and natural resources and systems that sustain an urban community—by advancing such things as affordable housing, citizen participation, creative initiative, cultural diversity, economic vitality, educational achievement, employment opportunity, energy efficiency, environmental health, generational interdependence, historic preservation, and public policy with practical, innovative, and sustainable methods and environmental best practices. The West Ward Urban Ecology Project advocates and supports the creation, implementation, and management of a fully integrated, sustainable, and productive urban ecology system in order to assure the protection of the public’s health, safety, and welfare. Following are some specific projects the Partnership will be developing:
To reduce the carbon footprint of the neighborhood by planting hundreds of trees and gardens, planning a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood, encouraging alternative transportation, lowering energy use, and shifting to alternative fuels.
To rehabilitate 12 affordable homes to green and historic preservation standards for low- and moderate-income working families; to involve 250 residents in workshops on green, historic housing rehabilitation and provide hundreds of green energy audits.
To establish a Green Design Laboratory at Lafayette College’s Department of Mechanical Engineering that is benchmarking methods for affordable, green and historic rehabilitation, which will provide an advanced training environment for students and practitioners; to open an Eco-House designed and run by community fellows, who will lead neighborhood programs in urban ecology, and more.
To help at-risk children and youth prepare for school, careers, and citizenship through Lafayette College’s Kids-in-Community and Easton Boys and Girls Club’s Teen Center mentoring programs, which will help 80 at-risk youth each year appreciate the natural environment.
To develop a waterfront Eco-Park on the Lehigh River for environmental education, recreation, and economic development.
To encourage green business development through microloans, through the CACLV subsidiary’s Rising Tide Community Loan Fund; to provide local contractors in green and historic rehabilitation methods, so that they can provide green/historic training to 20 persons.
And, perhaps most importantly, engage the residents in the process.
The WWNP’s goal is to forge a more creative, healthful, and connected community through programs for lower-income residents that support children and families, affordable housing and counseling, neighborhood building, and economic development.
Igho is Neighborhood Development Coordinator for the West Ward Neighborhood Partnership.
(Published in the 2009 edition of Sustainable Lehigh Valley)