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Adding beauty and resources to neighborhoods

Well-known for its work with the community, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden has installed community and urban learning gardens as solo projects and in combination with partners throughout the Tristate.

Rockdale Garden

The best example of this is the 2-acre Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden Urban Learning Garden at Rockdale Academy, which is essentially a mini-botanical garden, on the campus of Rockdale Academy, a K-6 elementary school two blocks from the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. This garden received the Perennial Plant Association’s Award of Merit in 2022.

The Rockdale Garden Story
In the summer of 2021, The Cincinnati Reds, P&G, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden joined forces to transform a 1-acre portion of a school yard located in the Zoo’s neighborhood into an urban learning garden that is now being used by students, neighbors, and even chefs at nearby Ronald McDonald House.  Instead of declaring the project “finished” after planting and dedications were done, the Zoo committed to ongoing maintenance and support, even assigning a full-time employee to its upkeep, to ensure that the garden would continue to grow and benefit the community.  That’s a literal example of how it’s sustainable, in the sense that it will be around for a long time.  The garden is also a model of sustainable practices and includes an array of solar panels and other “green” elements that have been included in the students’ curriculum, nurturing the next generation to consider their impact and make green choices.
The project has brought people from all places and backgrounds together, and so many have benefitted from the collaborative efforts of staff, volunteers, visitors, educators, students, community partners, board members, and neighbors. We all work in the garden and share what is harvested.  The garden also provides income for young adults from Groundwork ORV‘s Green Team, who are hired seasonally to help weed, plant, mulch, and care for the living classroom.  The Groundwork Green Team program provides teens with income and transferable skills that they can use to pursue future employment in the green industry.  By participating in activities like the Rockdale Garden community event, they learn the basics of creating healthy landscapes and get to connect with organizations that model sustainable behaviors.

Rockdale Academy: A Hub for Community Gardens in Avondale

Plants grown at the Rockdale Urban Learning Garden have been installed in other locations around Avondale, including the Northern Larona Community Garden, the Beldare Vine pocket park, and around new Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden parking areas on Erkenbrecher Ave. Plants have also been installed in neighboring communities, including John P. Parker School and Shroder High School in Madisonville, Rees E. Price Academy in East Price Hill, and Bond Hill Academy in Bond Hill.

plants in a garden

Community Makeovers

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden partners with the Reds Community Fund and P&G each year to make a difference in Cincinnati communities. The goal of the annual Community Makeover is to choose a neighborhood renovation project that improves local youth baseball and softball programs while making a significant impact on the community and its residents.

Read recent Community Makeover news and stories.