2003 Garden Crusader Awards

Winner: Urban Renewal
James Hogan, St. Louis, Mo.

Jim Hogan
Jim Hogan
When most people consider places to retire, they think of Florida, Arizona or some protected community. Not Jim Hogan. In 1990, Jim bought a house in the Fox Park Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri. Fox Park is an inner-city neighborhood and, at that time, was riddled with crime, drugs and trash. "I wanted to help try to revitalize and beautify the area," says Jim.

Even though he wasn't a gardener, Jim recognized the benefits beautiful plants and parks would have for the community. Working with other volunteers they selected an 80- by 130-foot-wide lot at a busy intersection in the neighborhood, cleaned out the trash, and started planting flowers. Their work caught the attention of not only the neighbors, but also a local community action group called Gateway Greening. Gateway Greening has been helping St. Louis neighborhoods beautify their communities for 20 years by building community gardens in abandoned lots. Gateway Greening helped Jim and his neighbors turn an eyesore into an award winning ornamental garden.

Morning Glory Garden
A neglected neighborhood was transformed once Morning Glory Garden was built.

The Morning Glory Garden, as it was named to reflect a new day in the community, had immediate effects. Neighbors started cleaning up their own yards. Crime went down and drug peddlers moved on. "We now have young families moving into the neighborhood and property values have soared since we began rebuilding our neighborhood through gardening," says Jim.

Fox Park Farm
Fox Park Farm--before the garden was planted.

Jim was convinced of the power of gardening, but needed more gardening knowledge himself. He became a Master Gardener though the University of Missouri program and became a regular volunteer with Gateway Greening to help other neighborhoods begin gardens.

A few years later Jim helped create the Fox Park Farm, where community residents could grow their own vegetables in 30 raised beds. Another success is the DeSales Garden. The DeSales Community Housing Corporation tore down what had been a drug house and donated the property for a 20-raised bed garden. Jim helped supervise not only volunteer gardeners, but also adult offenders on probation doing their community service. "It was a way for these offenders give something back to the community," he says. For his more than 9,000 volunteer hours helping 30 communities in St. Louis over the last 10 years, Jim has been recognized with a commendation from the U.S. Attorney in Eastern Missouri.

Fox Park Farm
Fox Park Farm--after planting and renewal.

Not only has Jim helped rebuild his community, he's become a better gardener in the process. "I bought a lot adjacent to my home and planted flowers and shrubs, and built a fish pond and an outdoor track. I like to run around the track and enjoy the view," he says. Although he's still committed to creating better neighborhoods, Jim is pulling back a bit to enjoy the gardens he's helped build. "It's great feeling driving around the city and knowing that I helped start many of these gardens," says Jim.

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