Q&A with GardenWalk Lakewood

We recently spoke with Claire Campbell from GardenWalk Lakewood. The HLF grantee discusses what GardenWalk Lakewood does to beautify the community, and how it uses the HLF grant funding to upgrade and start new projects.

Claire Campbell: I’m Claire, I’m the current director of garden walk Lakewood.

Q: Tell me about GardenWalk Lakewood and how you guys came to be? 

Claire: So, for background, we are not the original creators of this, like garden walk idea. The original garden walk concept was actually born out of Buffalo, New York in 1995. So back in the 90s, there was a small group of residents in Buffalo and they came together and they were trying to brainstorm ways to rejuvenate and like beautify their neighborhood.

So what they ended up doing was putting together what we now call a garden walk. So they put together a free self guided tour of some of the residential gardens in Buffalo as a way to show visitors like how beautiful their city is, and also as a way to improve public opinion about the buffalo neighborhoods. And this turned out to be a bigger success than anyone could have ever imagined. And this group is now known as GardenWalk Buffalo. 

And today they host thousands of attendees every year, and they have over 400 participating gardens on their tour. So since then, this garden walk concept has been spreading to other parts of the country and locally, we now have our sister orgs like GardenWalk Cleveland, GardenWalk South Euclid, and now GardenWalk Lakewood. 

We are like the newest GardenWalk org in Northeast Ohio. And our group is made up of myself and six other Lakewood residents. We came together just last year in like, early 2022. I just got the idea like, hey, I love GardenWalk, I go to GardenWalk Cleveland every year. 

I think it’d be really successful here too. So I put out a call on the Facebook Lakewood community page, like, hey who wants to start this with me. And I had a big group of residents come together. And that’s kind of how we formed.

Q: How did you find out about Healthy Lakewood Foundation grants? How was that grant process?

Claire: So we found out about the Healthy Lakewood Foundation and their grant process through a friend of a friend. And the process itself was very, very good and relatively stress free, in my opinion. So like I said, we are a very small org, this is just like our first year of coming together. 

And the application itself was very straightforward. And the Healthy Lakewood Foundation was very helpful when we had Qs about the application process itself. And there was also an interview portion as part of the application. 

During the interview, the Healthy Lakewood Foundation, they were all just very, very kind. And they seemed genuinely interested in what we were doing and genuinely interested in supporting the Lakewood residents.

Q: How will you use the grant? Have you used any of it already?

Claire: We will use the grant primarily to fund our events. And our main event is our summer garden walk, which is like the original concept that started out of Buffalo. This is a completely free and self guided tour of some of our residential and community gardens in Lakewood. 

Last year we had residents volunteer–they signed up their gardens for the tour. And all gardens big and small are encouraged to participate. We then take the list of gardens and we’ll turn it into a tour map that’s kind of split up by Lakewood neighborhoods, and residents and visitors use the map and they take themselves on a big free garden tour all over the city.

Last year was our first garden walk. And it was held on a Saturday in July. We had 31 participating gardens for our first walk. We were super, super excited about that. And we’re hoping that we can grow the garden walk to be like 40 or 50 gardens in the next couple years and eventually turn it into like a full two-day weekend event. 

Our main goal is, like with our garden walk event, we want to create and share our beautiful Lakewood neighborhoods. We also want to celebrate the hard work and creativity of our residential gardeners that make the city of Lakewood just such a vibrant place to live. And lastly, and probably most importantly, we want to inspire everyone to start a garden of their own, because the positive environmental impacts of gardening are needed now more than ever. 

We also hope that by sharing our community and our residential gardens, that we can give folks more opportunities to enjoy these green spaces that they might not have access to otherwise. And you know, just in general, attending the garden walk is a fantastic way to meet neighbors, and also to build relationships with neighbors. And that just helps create a supportive and strong community. 

We also host two smaller events every year, we call them our spring and fall plant swaps. And so for the swaps, it’s open to all attendees, and everyone is invited to bring any extra seeds, like any extra plants, gardening tools, accessories, that are no longer serving them or they’re no longer using. 

So bring those to the swap, and then you’ll exchange those items for some “like new” to you gardening items that other attendees bring. And no one is actually required to bring anything to the swap. 

Another way we’re going to use the funding is that we are going to purchase native plants and native seeds to hand out to residents at the swap. And, you know, to hopefully, you know, get those native plants into gardens all over Lakewood. 

What we’re hoping to do with this is to remove barriers to entry for new gardeners, you know, for people who are starting out with nothing, and also for gardeners who may not have the means to purchase some of these items new. 

Another goal for our swap is to also get native plants and seeds into the community and into the community gardens all over the city,  which will help improve our local ecosystems and help support the pollinator habitats. And actually, at our last couple swaps we’ve held we’ve been able to give out a lot of vegetable seeds to our community members. 

That will be helpful to our residents who are starting Victory Gardens and, you know, trying to supplement some of their grocery expenses by growing their own food. That’s a brief overview of the events and how we’re going to spend the grant funding right now. 

Q: Can you talk about that a little bit about the benefits of gardening?

Claire: Gardening in general is helpful to our environment. Planting and native pollinators are a wonderful way to support our bees, and just all of our pollinators in our ecosystem. And also, there are studies that have shown spending time in gardens and in green spaces helps reduce socio economic health inequalities. 

This is by facilitating some physical activity, you know, being out and walking, digging and planting is great for our physical health. And also, it’s really great for just our general mental health and well being to spend time. There’s beautiful, calm places out in the gardens or our parks.

 Q: Why do you believe organizations like Healthy Lakewood Foundation are important?

Claire: Organizations like Healthy Lakewood Foundation are so important, especially to little community orgs like us who are just starting out. We were very stressed out our first year, having no funding, spending all of our energy, just, you know, trying to pay for things and trying to fundraise and just kind of get our events up off the ground. 

Organizations like the Healthy Lakewood Foundation are just incredible for little orgs because now we can focus on our events and focus on what we’re providing to the Lakewood residents instead of worrying about how we’re going to pay and fund our events.