Catie Boehmer

Last week, the Salazar Center’s Thriving Cities Challenge culminated in the announcement of implementation funding, with awards of between $35,000 and $100,000, for eight teams in U.S. cities. These teams are working to realize positive change in their communities through green infrastructure, revitalized public spaces, and nature-based solutions.

The winning teams’ projects are highlighted on the Thriving Cities Challenge website and include:

  • Festival Beach Food Forest in Austin, TX (pictured above), was awarded $100,000 for its proposal to significantly expand its existing food forest pilot project adjacent to a community park, which will in turn produce more food for the community pantry, regenerate soil, restore the local watershed, and reserve carbon in a hot spot of food insecurity with related benefits for the physical and mental health of local residents.
  • Canfield Consortium in Detroit, MI, was awarded $50,000 for its proposal to “activate” a previously abandoned city alleyway, with potential for replication throughout the city, ultimately creating a green capillary system that significantly contributes to municipal sustainability goals as well as neighborhood cultural, social, and economic life.
  • Council for Watershed Health in Los Angeles, CA, was awarded $35,000 for its proposal to develop the long-term capacity of local stakeholders to engage with and lead on green infrastructure projects using a mentor-mentee model.
  • Ecoworks in Detroit, MI, was awarded $35,000 for its proposal to support the community-led redevelopment of Rogell Park, a 98-acre green space at the intersection of five distinct neighborhoods, to manage stormwater runoff for neighboring communities.
  • EEECHO in Gulfport, MS, was awarded $35,000 for its proposal to enhance the local conservation and restoration of critically important coastal and watershed habitats by addressing systemic barriers, including local zoning and state permitting processes.
  • Turner Station Conservation Teams in Baltimore, MD, was awarded $35,000 for its proposal to plant “Witness Trees”—sentinel species in culturally and ecologically important spaces—with the help of the inaugural cohort of the new Baltimore Climate Corps, in order to address and mitigate sea-level rise.
  • Western Reserve Land Conservancy in Cleveland, OH, was awarded $35,000 for its proposal to create an “urban tree hub,” growing and planting trees, giving them away to residents, and training community members to plant and care for them through a tree steward training program and tree nursery enterprise.
  • Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice in the Bronx, NY, was awarded $35,000 for its proposal to scale up its Bronx Foodways project—a public site of gardening, foraging, environmental education, climate resilience, and explorations of culture and nutrition—to the other city boroughs, including parks and other green spaces.

The Thriving Cities Challenge is the Center’s second annual Conservation Impact Prize and was created to fund innovative approaches for supporting and advancing equity, health, and resilience through green space in cities of North America. Fifteen finalist teams were selected in June 2021 by an expert group of evaluators, and over the summer, each team received a $10,000 capacity-building grant, along with training and mentorship opportunities to help strengthen and further develop their proposed projects.

On September 30, the teams participated in a virtual pitch fest, during which they presented their projects to and took questions from a final evaluation panel. The panel selected winning teams based on their potential to advance climate resilience and racial equity.

Funding for the Challenge has been provided by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the VF Foundation, the Kendeda Fund, the Bullitt Foundation, and the Blackstone Ranch Institute.