Hellstrip Conversion

We hope this story submitted to us out of Southern Maine by Andrea Roth Kimmich can serve as inspiration in your communities.

Hellstrip (as per Urban Dictionary):  A strip of dirt between the sidewalk and the street, notoriously hard to grow plants of any kind in due to lack of water, heat reflected from paved surfaces, foot traffic, trash, dog crap, and salt from winter snowmelt. Also called a tree lawn, inferno strip, devil strip and verge.

Native Plant (as per USDA)A plant that is a part of the balance of nature that has developed over hundreds or thousands of years in a particular region or ecosystem. Note: “Native” should always be used with a geographic qualifier (that is, native to New England [for example]).

For someone passionate about wilding and the benefits of “going native”, living on a road with hellstrips can be a day-in, day-out downer.  

Much inspired by workshops led by the likes of the Wild Seed Project, and less formal conversations with a variety of “seed keepers”, and those involved in “seed exchanges”, Lisa Pagano with the Planeteers of Southern Maine has developed a passion and commitment to “wilding” and “going native.” And she’s learned the Latin to go with it, a practice she honed as a marine biologist.  

When the Planeteers of Southern Maine first gathered in person following the Covid pandemic, mapping out emerging interests and areas of priority, Lisa suggested the conversion of hellstrips as a way of bringing community members together following recent years of separation, while attending to other neglected aspects of “community.” So, this project is as much about connecting with neighbors as it is connecting with natives, with major objectives being:

  1. Pollinator Protection & Proliferation
  2. Public Awareness and Education about the virtues of going native
  3. Area Beautification/De-desertification/Deterrent to Littering
  4. Community-building 

Project Status :

Lisa has:

  • Connected with other local area native plant enthusiasts and has maintained a Facebook page for related “cross-pollination” with others.   
  • Conducted project outreach via visits to each property owner abutting the High Street hellstrips in Kennebunk, Maine, where she is herself a homeowner.
  • Coordinated work parties to move from one hellstrip to the next, preparing each for planting.
  • With Planeteer Founding member, Andrea Kimmich, negotiated with local Garden Center, Wallingford Farm, a donation of mulch satisfying the needs along the High Street Hellstrip.
  • Created signage to be placed on each portion of what  now officially constitutes a Pollinators Pathway! 

With others comprising the Planeteers’ steering committee, Lisa has identified subsequent project phases with target pathways and property sites along with parties agreeable to these – notably another 2 rows of hellstrips, which include businesses, 2 alternative school groups, a housing trust, land trust, and municipal park property too.  A schedule of Native Garden Tour Days is under development for 2023 as well.

The moral of this story is this:  Yes, it sure takes a village, but it also takes grassroots organizing and the vision and chutzpah of any one person.

For more information on Hellstrip conversions and related to this venture:

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