Walnut Way Conservation and the City of Milwaukee’s Environmental Collaboration Office, hosted a ribbon cutting on April 18 at Fondy Market, to celebrate the completion of green infrastructure and clean energy projects in the Lindsay Heights Neighborhood, as well as the city’s first Eco Tour designation.

The neighborhood was one of two communities nationally to receive the Partnership for Resilient Communities award from the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC). The Partnership provided technical resources, access to a large national network of sustainability experts and peers, and provided $150,000 for Walnut Way to expand its work on climate resilience, specifically regarding energy and water.

“Environmental stewardship and climate resilience are critical to the overall revitalization of the Lindsay Heights neighborhood, and mitigating the effects of poverty and disinvestment from the ground up. Walnut Way is honored to help drive this important work through our social enterprise, Blue Skies Landscaping, and many cross-sector partners locally and nationally. In this regard, we hope Lindsay Heights can be a model for the City of Milwaukee,” said Antonio Butts, Executive Director of Walnut Way.

In 2017, Walnut Way Conservation Corp., a neighborhood-based nonprofit known for its innovative work in economic and environmental health and wellness, and the Lindsay Heights neighborhood were selected by the ISC for a highly competitive national initiative to support community-based climate resilience.

“The Institute for Sustainable Communities is excited to partner with Walnut Way to support the realization of these valuable community assets. Every community deserves to have assets that promote health, safety, economic opportunity and that help make for a fun place to live. ISC is committed to supporting communities that are often overlooked when it comes to these types of investments. We tremendously value our partnership with Walnut Way and applaud their hard work and dedication. Congratulations!” said Sarita Turner, Director for Inclusive Communities at the Institute for Sustainable Communities.

The initiative mobilized Walnut Way’s social enterprise, Blue Skies Landscaping, to complete the green infrastructure projects at Fondy Park, Greater Galilee Missionary Baptist Church, and Alice’s Garden rainwater harvesting project. The projects capture and divert storm water from the sewer system to be used as a resource rather than redirected as waste. Blue Skies Landscaping provides job training in landscape horticulture and infrastructure for individuals who have traditionally faced employment barriers.

“The City of Milwaukee is working to make Milwaukee a world class eco-city, and that starts in our neighborhoods,” said Erick Shambarger, Director of Environmental Sustainability for the City of Milwaukee’ Environmental Collaboration Office. “We’re proud to partner with Walnut Way because of their grass roots leadership and success in creating local green jobs.”

Additionally, with the support of the City’s Milwaukee Shines program, Walnut Way and its partners contracted with Arch Electric and Mindful Staffing Solutions to install photovoltaic solar systems at four neighborhood sites. These systems convert sunlight to electricity; the systems at three sites lowers billed electricity, and at Alice’s Garden, the system provides off-grid stored power. Solar systems were installed at Walnut Way, 2240 N. 17th Street; the Innovations and Wellness Commons, 1617 W Fond du Lac Avenue; Fondy Farmers Market, 2200 W. Fond du Lac Avenue; and Alice’s Garden, 2136 N. 21st Street.

“These solar panels prove that renewable electricity is truly universal. Walnut Way and Alice’s Garden are not only taking the initiative to be more self-sufficient, but more importantly, they’re improving the health of the entire community by cutting carbon emissions, reducing stormwater runoff into lakes and streams, and growing nutritious food right in their own neighborhood,” said Sam Dunaiski, Program Manager for Renew Wisconsin/Solar for Good who provided additional funding for the solar projects.

The Partnership also helped Walnut Way collaborate with the City of Milwaukee’s Environmental Collaboration Office to certify Lindsay Heights as the first ECO neighborhood and Eco Tour destination in Milwaukee. The Eco Tour route highlights the significant environmental interventions in the neighborhood through signage.

Many additional partners helped bring these projects to fruition, including Arch Electric, the Fund for Lake Michigan, GZA Engineering, Mindful Staffing Solutions, ReFlo, Milwaukee JobsWork, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD), Rivet LLC, Rozga Plumbing & Heating Corp., Social Development Corporation, Solar for Good, MorganDezine, and the Wally Schmidt Redevelopment.

Speakers at the ribbon cutting event included Antonio Butts, Executive Director of Walnut Way; Henry Hopkins, Blue Skies Landscaping Crew Lead of Walnut Way; Mayor Tom Barrett; Alderman Russell Stamper; Sarita Turner, Director of Inclusive Communities at Institute for Sustainable Communities; Tim McCollow, HOME GR/OWN Project Manager at City of Milwaukee ECO; Kevin Shafer, Executive Director of MMSD; George Hinton, CEO of Social Development Commission; and Jen Casey, Executive Director of Fondy Farmers Market.

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Lee Matz