There are signs throughout this 5 acre former industrial site that explain how they converted in a green way...
There are signs throughout this 5 acre former industrial site that explain how they converted in a green way…

I was at a Christmas party a year ago, and a man involved in an “urban renewal site” was at this gathering, I surprised him when I told him that I thought the Native Gardens at a former urban area were beautiful.

This is one section that sits near the bike path and on the Mississippi River between Moline + Rock Island
This is one section that sits near the bike path and on the Mississippi River between Moline + Rock Island

He told me, “You are one of the few people who thought what we did at this sight was a good thing.” I was dumbfounded. I guess “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”…

Wonderful native plants fill this site..blooming through all the seasons...
Wonderful native plants fill this site..blooming through all the seasons…

I love sculpture! This site is a combination of native plantings, former urban decay, working with nature all on a five acre site that is part of the Great River Recreational Trail.

Interesting insects, birds, flowers and natural beauty abound in this area...
Interesting insects, birds, flowers and natural beauty abound in this area…

My husband and I often hike down by the Mississippi River, and this area has always been a place that I could get lost in for hours.

They created a courtyard wiht native trees and plants...
They created a courtyard with native trees and plants…

This past Sunday we spent several hours just walking around shooting pictures of the natural beauty they have created at this site.

I leave seedheads on my plants for wildlife during the winter...
I leave seed heads on my plants for wildlife during the winter…

This area is 5 acres of beautiful natural plantings that change with the season. We plan on returning to shoot some more pictures since we were only able to focus on one section. We have a lot more to explore!

Great River Bike Trail runs right by this former urban blight...entire trail runs 60 miles along the Mississippi River...
Great River Bike Trail runs right by this former urban blight…it runs 60 miles along the Mississippi River…

After our visit to this site, my friend called and asked if I wanted to go for a bike ride on the river. It was a perfect day that I just jumped at the chance to ride the Mississippi River on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. I ride the Mississippi as often as I can it is such a magnificent waterway…..

A native aster filled with bees next to a former building...
A native aster filled with bees next to a former building…

I believe we need to start paying attention to the areas around our cities….the first place we all can start is on our own city lot…

There is always something blooming for pollinators...
There is always something blooming for pollinators…

We tend to forget that there are animals and pollinators that can benefit from taking an urban wasteland like this and turning it into a place for wildlife to return. There is no reason for it to sit as a “blight” on the landscape of our city…..

I ride my bike by this weekly and notice all the beautiful changes from spring to winter....
I ride my bike by this weekly and notice all the beautiful changes from spring to winter….

This time of year the flowers are all turning to seed, but there are a few fall blooming natives that paint the landscape..

just as one finishes blooming another replaces it in this natural setting...
just as one finishes blooming another replaces it in this natural setting…

You can see all the bees buzzing, birds flying, and nature returning to this area the way it was meant to be…the only evidence of its former use is the urban sculptures that are left to remind us of days gone by….

We need to incorporate native plants through our own landscapes while we grow more food in the city...
We need to incorporate native plants through our own landscapes while we grow more food in the city…

I find natural urban sculpture engaging, but I have a tendency to see “sublime” in what others might find “ugly”…isn’t that the sign of a creative soul? I sure hope so… I feel blessed that I  see “beauty” in what others might see as a waste of time…..

Written by Robbie

M.S. Education, , Organic Gardener, soil + nature lover, former modern dancer

18 comments

    1. Thank you for agreeing…makes me feel like I’m not the “oddball” all the time-lol…they are wonderful memories of days gone by intermingled with nature…:-)

    1. I was thinking that courtyard would be a nice place for a garden party..it really was lovely. I thought it was very forward thinking of our local leaders, but some people don’t get the whole green thing. I grew up near the Great Lakes, so when we moved here in the 80’s after college, I thought I would go crazy not being near a significant body of water especially one that you can see the shoreline across the way-lol, but I have grown to appreciate the beauty of the Mississippi River..it truly is a beautiful place to ride throughout the year 🙂

  1. Great post! I think it is beautiful, too, and hopeful – a wonderful design. I hope you share this encouragement for more urban garden designs like this renewal project. I find the plants that take hold naturally so interesting but even on my small garden plot many of the plants are invasive so intentionally restoring natives is so important!

    1. I know what you mean they can become invasive, for example, my asters I pull out here and there, but I don’t mind. On our city lots we can use some of these plants by keeping an eye on them , but on a large scale they work so well in this type of landscape since they are VERY low maintence-lol..they just take care of themselves and others:-) and I will share more of these projects as well as update this site throughout the seasons..it is very interesting…

  2. Count me in as yet another person who thinks this is absolutely beautiful, and as Kathy said above, “hopeful.” This is such a wonderful and innovative use of existing structures; I’m so glad they left the brick walls and post & beam structure rather than carting them off to a landfill; these remnants add a wonderful sense of history, scale and context. The brick courtyard is truly beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing this; your images are lovely. Moreover, thank you for giving the people involved in this project a big thumbs up; I’m sure they were thrilled to get some positive feedback.

    1. I am so thrilled that I am not alone about thinking this is beautiful:-) They also did not take all the stuff away to put in landfills, they incorporated most all of the debris into this area as well as they worked it into the structure of the site, rock pathways and built places to help with the toxic chemicals etc…very captivating when you walk across the 5 acre site. I could not get all of it done in one visit. It is a great use of old structures, and you are right I am spreading the word! 🙂

  3. Thanks for sharing this beauty with us. For some reason, the old Joni Mitchell refrain comes to mind:: “Pave paradise and put up a parking lot.” Only in this case, once the parking lot has served out its lifetime, then we can put back paradise.

    1. lol…you always seem to know just the right “song” , “phrase” or comment to make me laugh…with your great photos and stories, one never is bored when visiting your posts-:-) Now I have that song in my head!Great song,by the way..I’ll be humming it all day:-)

    1. Thank you:-) It always is easier to take a great photo if the subject”itself” is beautiful in it’s natural sate…blessed to have the technology and moment to capture in time…There is a peacefulness when wandering this site, and you just can’t capture it all in one visit:-)

  4. I’ve been told that my permaculture methods look messy, but I always look deeper and see how teeming with life my ‘messy’ land is! I, too, see beauty in these places. Have you ever read “The World Without Us” by Alan Weisman? It outlines different scenarios where Nature recovers land when humans leave it. The chapter on Chernobyl was fascinating. I think you’d enjoy reading it.

    1. I agree! We had a friend visit from California and he said he liked our garden because it felt like nature should feel-“free” and not perfect-lol. I will check out that book, it does sound like something I would like to read. I love going to this site and taking pictures in the different seasons, and each year it fills in a bit more with new and intersting plants and creatures-animal and human:-)

  5. Beautiful photos! And I agree with you about the beauty of a natural landscape – I think what makes it even more beautiful is knowing that it is creating a real sustainable habitat for local living things – and that benefits us all!

    1. Hi Micaela, so glad you stopped by for a visit…thank you:-) I will be stopping by this site throughout the year, and it should be interesting.I do squeeze in native plants in our Urban Potager, but I have to be selective as to where, and how many mixed in with my annual plants since I don’t have a lot of room:-)

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