One Charlotte community leader has an innovative idea to help reduce trash and pollution along a central city greenway. Another wants to help promote mobility among the community’s older adults and people with disabilities.
The two, Caroline Burgett and H. Lyn Kim, are among 20 community leaders nationwide selected to become fellows of the Emerging City Champions program.
The incubator is led by the nonprofit 8 80 Cities and is funded by the Knight Foundation. Applicants submitted their ideas on how to make their cities more inclusive and accessible through civic engagement.
Siva Vijenthira, a project manager for 8 80 Cities, said the review team chose Burgett and Kim because of their roots in the community and their creativity around activating public life in public spaces.
They’ll each receive $5,000 in seed funding, as well as leadership tools and training to help launch their ideas.
Burgett is an environmental analyst for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services. Her proposal, called Reclaim CLT, is aimed at tackling litter in Charlotte, with the help of residents.
The idea started with a pilot program Storm Water Services launched on Little Sugar Creek Greenway in February where visitors could send in photos of the creek and feedback on whether they thought it looked polluted. But what they really discovered, Burgett said, was how strongly people associate pollution with garbage.
Burgett plans to introduce a trash collection sculpture along the greenway to encourage visitors to pick up any litter they see and deposit it in the sculpture. She also plans a contest between neighborhoods to see which one could collect the most trash.
Her idea for the art piece is still in its early stages. Burgett said she wants it to be a “statement piece” featuring a larger-than-life portrayal of some kind of native aquatic species.
Beyond simply removing trash from the greenway, Burgett said she hopes Reclaim CLT will help people recognize the litter problem in Charlotte, and do their part to help solve it.
“And maybe, when you’re walking to the store and you see a cup on the ground, you’ll pick it up and put it in the trash can,” Burgett said. “Small behavior changes like that, I think if everybody did it, we’d have a much greener, cleaner Charlotte.”
Kim’s project, GO CLT!, is a mobility event focused on older adults with diverse abilities and ethnic backgrounds.
Kim said when she came to Charlotte to pursue her Ph.D. after working for the city of St. Louis, she was surprised to see that accessibility and mobility for people who are older or have disabilities wasn’t a priority for the local government.
According to WalletHub’s list of Best and Worst Cities for People with Disabilities in the U.S., Charlotte ranks 153 out of 182, while St. Louis sits at No. 8.
“There are so many things that we’re working on here in Charlotte, because it is a burgeoning city, that it gets put at the bottom of the list,” she said. “And, if you really think about it, aging is not very sexy.”
Her plan is also in the early stages, but Kim said the goal of GO CLT! is to encourage entire families to participate in outdoor activities, while gearing the event toward older people in particular, hosting races ranging from a Mature Mile to a Diaper Dash.
“When people think of aging, they think of someone that is weak and helpless, and I would love to rebrand and reframe what it means to age,” Kim said. “It’s not an inconvenience, it’s a progression of life.”