OPL began a new partnership with Omaha Permaculture (OP) in spring 2021, kicking off a project to revitalize the Charles B. Washington Branch landscaping. OP is an environmental nonprofit that maintains unwanted, vacant land to elevate the property’s utility and value for the surrounding neighborhood. It focuses on creating healthy ecosystems through urban agriculture related economic development. Although OP’s mission focuses on urban agriculture, it also specializes in utilizing native plants to create sustainable, pollinator-friendly landscaping.
Although clearly not vacant, the Washington Branch landscaping had taken a downturn in recent years due to a broken sprinkler system and blights that wiped out most of the trees on the property. Branch Manager Amy Wenzl reached out to Gus Von Roenn, OP founder and executive director, about a partnership. Together, they agreed that OPL and the Omaha Public Library Foundation would find donors to purchase plants, and OP would create a design, manage the planting, and perform annual maintenance of the beds moving forward, with the help of library volunteers. Jessica Wooley, OP’s urban ecology program coordinator, soon took over the project and has worked closely with Wenzl ever since. “This new native landscape will serve as vital space for pollinators and spark conversation about the beauty and importance of native plants,” said Wooley.
Wenzl hopes the new landscaping will add vibrancy and color to the block, inviting community members to explore natural resources outside the building, and educational and community resources inside. A majority of the beds were planted in September, culminating in a family-friendly event on October 16, where community members were invited to help finish fall planting and prep the beds for mulch and winter care, while enjoying stories, songs, and activities for little ones. Additional plants will be purchased in the spring to fill in the last few beds. Library patrons and staff appreciate the enhancements. Library Specialist Kimara Snipe commented, “It’s such an improvement already! I can’t wait to see it finished.”