Northern Liberties: The Next Gold Standard for Environmental Stewardship?

Lara Kelly, the quality of life coordinator for the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association, promotes healthy living and environment for the community. She has been an active member in the neighborhood for 19 years.

What do you bring to this organization and what makes you so passionate about it?

It was a small closed knit community when I moved here 19 years ago. It’s a welcoming area and everyone looked after each other. But now times are changing and the people who are moving in – that are renting – can be less involved, though there are some people that really care. I started working here because I want to help with the environment of Northern Liberties and to promote a greener and conscience area.

What is the biggest issue that your community faces?

We as a community have two major goals that we have to face daily. The first of which would be constant construction. We are goal-oriented for quality of life. We get constant complaints from neighbors. It’s what neighbors want to talk about when they run into each other. The other issue we tend to face is people not cleaning up after their dogs. It’s unappealing and quite frequent. You need to move if you can’t clean up after your dog. We are constantly trying new things to fix these issues. We got a grant to implement dog poop stations in various parts of the area. The only problem with that is when you install them someone has to refill the bags and then empty them. We need volunteers to do that, but sometimes it’s hard to get people involved.

Can you tell us about your organization and what your goals are?

The function is to represent the neighbors in city government and to have the community’s voices heard. We beg for volunteers. There are between 6,000 and 7,000 people in the neighborhood. Only about 1 percent shows up to our meetings and only about 1 percent vote for elected officials. There are a lot of people who move here that rent and only stay here for a small amount of time, so they aren’t as invested in the community.

What kind of events do you do to get people involved?

We have an event going on now called Winterfest. That is where businesses have a silent auction. Along with that, we get North Bowl to donate their space for the event. Other than that we have two music festivals to get people involved fundraising wise. Around Christmas time, we have tree recycling. We have all the neighbors come and dispose of their trees. Now 16 other neighborhoods in the city have the same event.

What do you want to see in the next 10 years for the neighborhood?

I want it to be the gold standard in the city for environmental stewardship in the city. I want 95 percent of the neighborhood to invest in the city. I also want more school options. We only get around 1 percent of the neighborhood to come and have their voices heard and I want that to change.

– Text and images by Taylor Lumpkin and Emily Melendez.

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