The City of Alexandria has achieved success in its partnership with Citizinvestor – a crowdfunding and civic engagement platform for local government projects – empowering citizens to invest in their community. Over the past summer, in conjunction with the citizen-run Four Mile Run Farmers & Artisans Market, the City of Alexandria launched its first-ever crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to kick-start the recently adopted Four Mile Run Park Improvement Plan by planting new trees in the park. Citizens responded with contributions large and small by donating tax-deductibly via the crowd-funding website.
With the arrival of tree planting season, over a dozen new trees are to be planted in the first week of November in the portion of Four Mile Run Park along the Mark Drive alleyway. A community mulching and park cleaning day is planned for the morning of Veterans Day, Nov. 11 at 9 a.m. to prepare the trees for winter.
The 4MR Park Community Fall Tree Planting is a community initiative together with the City of Alexandria's Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities and funded in part by the Four Mile Run Farmers & Artisans Market and Action Alexandria who each awarded $1,000 to the project. Citizens contributed another $1,000 that the City was able to further combine with tree donations from other sources in order to advance the project. The 4MR Park Tree Planting is a continuation of the work begun over the last few years by a group of community volunteers in the Arlandria neighborhood who came together to perform various improvement projects in and around Four Mile Run Park to complement the work of the Four Mile Run Restoration Plan and the new Four Mile Run Park Improvement Plan. The projects include: the Four Mile Run Farmers & Artisans Market, the Four Mile Run Park Expansion, Commonwealth Park (the rehabilitation of a former electrical substation at 3550 Commonwealth Avenue) and a large tree planting last fall. All of these activities have been documented in the community blog: The Arlandrian (www.arlandria.org).
“A group of folks in the community have been engaged with stream mitigation work, park improvements and stream cleanups for a number of years and the farmers market we started was an outgrowth of that,” says organizer Kevin Beekman. “Money we raise at the market from t-shirt sales and market vendor fees typically amounts to around $1,000 a year. We always donate all proceeds to the City for the park, but this year we’re leveraging the funds to attract more grants and donations.”
While budgets in municipalities across the United States have tightened in recent years, crowdfunding provides an alternative source for projects that municipalities are unable to provide but that citizens are clearly passionate about. Additional Four Mile Run Park projects are in the planning stages. The 4MR Park Tree Planting page remains open on Citizinvestor (http://www.citizinvestor.com/project/4mr-park-fall-tree-planting) for additional contributions to provide more trees in in Four Mile Run Park and other nearby locations, such as the Commonwealth Avenue median. Credit cards will not be charged unless the project reaches 100% of its funding goal before the set deadlines. Additionally, citizens have partnered with MOM's Organic Market to restore the interpretive environmental signs along Four Mile Run and tributary streams. A "friends of Four Mile Run Park" group is being formed to continue the work into the future.