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The North End Neighborhood Association (NENA) – was the first place I started when looking for support for the SNOW Block Alley project. Not only did receiving one of their FINE (Funds to Improve the North End) Grants help me financially but it also gave me the confidence to search out other sponsors. I was thrilled to be able to write the following story for their Fall 2015 newsletter.

NENA newsletter

NENA FINE Grant at Work

Gardening is Right Up Our Alley

by Linda Whittig

The North End can be a shady place – the yards that is. When looking for a spot to put in a blackberry patch, my husband, Devin Koski, and I realized the best sun on the property was actually in the alley. Standing back admiring the trellis installed on the side of our garage, we had our “what if” moment as we envisioned the whole alley as a vertical, edible garden.

Even though the ten houses on the block are a mixture of owner occupied and rentals, we had the neighbors’ support to move forward with the idea. The winter was spent drawing up a site map, researching ACHD’s pavement program and devising a general plan of action. Our approach was to dream big and with that came a lofty budget that we didn’t feel right asking our neighbors to foot.

Luckily a lot of people along the way believed in the vision. The FINE Grant from NENA was the first donation we received and that set the ball in motion. FarWest Nursery and D&B Supply became top tier sponsors with donations from Terravita Landscaping, sprinkler work by Bradley Built and signage from Trademark Sign Company helping to round out the project.

The alley – which we call the SNOW Block because we are Slightly North of Washington school – has undergone a complete transformation this summer. What used to be home to primarily weeds and junk that we didn’t know what else to do with it, is now lined with trellises, raised beds, and rain barrels; espaliered fruit trees, berries, and tomatoes. There’s even LED lights that give the alley a soft glow of an evening in whatever might be the favored color of the day.

This matches my vision almost to a tee but it’s the other transformation that’s taken place that I didn’t foresee. Suddenly neighbors that have lived on the block for years that didn’t even know each other’s names are found regularly chatting of an evening, beers in hand, filling the alley with the sounds of laughter. Treasure seekers come in search of our geocache and there’s a Facebook page for the block where fresh eggs are given away and events are organized. The new asphalt is now a safely tucked away spot highly favored by the kids for scootering, rollerblading, and biking. Then there’s the weekend nights where families cuddle on lawn furniture with big bowls of popcorn watching movies shown on the pulldown projection screen newly installed on one of the garages.

I said our alley matched my vision but that’s not actually true. What has been created has far exceeded anything I ever could have imagined.


SNOW block before and after