There are about 20,000 vacant lots in Cleveland, with 1,000 more being added every year. Across other Great Lakes cities, the picture is much the same. To most, the empty parcels of land are a painful reminder of American economic decline. To Ultra-Ex, a team of Cleveland-area scientists, they represent space for ecological experimentation.
The Ultra-Ex scientists (the "ultra stands for Urban Long-Term Research Area) are using land left vacant by foreclosure and forefeiture to conduct research on bird and insect populations, watershed systems, soil nematodes and urban farms.
Michael Tortorello reports on the project in the New York Times:
Along with its sci-fi name, Ultra-Ex advances a forward-looking mission: to document the ecological benefits that vacant lots might provide and to redefine the land, from neighborhood blight to community asset.
The scope of the problem represents an enormous undertaking, but the project gets our kudos for asking not what we can do for vacant lots, but what they can do for us.
Related: Plants Conquer Vacant Lots
Photos: David Joseph / New York Times