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New Interactive Mapping Website for Baltimore's Open Spaces Launched for Community Use

Data Integrated by the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance-Jacob France Institute Allows Inter-organizational View of Community Gardens and Open Spaces on Vacant Properties

November 21, 2013
Contact: University Relations
Phone: 410.837.5739

For decades, communities in Baltimore have come together to ensure that vacant spaces are turned into neighborhood assets such as gardens, pocket parks and even public horseshoe pits—but how can city residents discover where they are? What is the best way to coordinate human capital so that these spaces can be effectively and efficiently claimed, managed, and protected?

Now, long-standing questions about Baltimore City's green acreage are being addressed by the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance-Jacob France Institute (BNIA-JFI), which recently launched an interactive resource tool for community gardens and open spaces. It is designed to help governmental and non-governmental organizations better coordinate and monitor "greening" activities in neighborhoods all across the city, where local groups are working diligently to maintain existing open space and add even more in the coming years. The tool is available on BNIA-JFI's website.

Check out coverage of the interactive mapping tool in The Daily Record.

Working with the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, established in Baltimore in 2011, BNIA-JFI developed the mapping tool to integrate information from five different organizations: Baltimore Green Space, Parks and People, Master Gardeners, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, and Baltimore City's Power in Dirt project.

Seema D. Iyer, associate director of the Jacob France Institute in the University of Baltimore's Merrick School of Business, said that the website will help communities and community-based organizations visualize where greening efforts have been occurring as they work to coordinate resources.

"Until now, no one organization had a clear picture of all the places in Baltimore where communities have come together to take back otherwise vacant and abandoned lots," Iyer said. "What started out as a predominantly grassroots effort is now recognized as being a significant way to revitalize neighborhoods, reduce water pollution and ultimately improve quality of life in Baltimore."

BNIA-JFI worked to acquire data from partner organizations and focused on establishing an integrated geodatabase for one overall list of sites.

"It's terrific to see these open spaces gathered into a site where we can witness their impact. Baltimore Green Space is proud to have contributed to this site, and very pleased to have a new way to showcase residents' hard work," said BGS Executive Director Miriam Avins.

The data display uses an ESRI online subscription service, which was customized by Blue Raster. The website allows users to upload "crowdsourced" information on sites, such as photos, and to sort for various categories, such as spaces that have dedicated children's activities or food co-op resources.

The mapping project was funded through an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station. The Northern Research Station of the U.S. Forest Service seeks to improve lives and help sustain the natural resources in the Northeast and Midwest through leading-edge science and effective information delivery.

The University of Baltimore is a member of the University System of Maryland and comprises the College of Public Affairs, the Merrick School of Business, the UB School of Law and the Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences.