Residents near Atwood Avenue talking sustainability, taking steps - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Residents near Atwood Avenue talking sustainability, taking steps

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Jennie Capellaro's backyard is booming with peppers and tomatoes and brimming with community spirit.

"I stll haven't quite developed a green thumb, but we're getting there," laughed Capellaro.

She added, "We've been sharing our cherry tomatoes and cucumbers and tons and tons of beans."

Capellaro is one of 25 people in the greater Atwood Avenue area on Madison's near eastside who signed up this year to start growing vegetables.

Leftovers are provided at neighborhood events like a block party that took place last Saturday evening.

The vegetable co-op is one of the environmental initiatives that resident Twink Jan-McMahon has helped organize.

"We help each other weed, we share tools, we share time," said Jan McMahon.

For her and others, it's about cutting food miles from the farm to the table, which in turn will cut down on emissions to transport food.

The ideas to green up the area, dubbed Sustainable Atwood, are growing well past the garden.

In one of the more visual efforts, neighbors are now asking the city to consider eliminating Eastwood Drive, and turning it back into a park. The city first built the Eastwood in the early 1980's. Many of the neighbors want it back the way it was before.  It's called the Eastwood Park Initiative.

"We are highly difficient in green space on the isthmus," said McMahon, who also cited Madison Magazine's praise of the Schenk-Atwood neighborhood. "We want to create a splan that puts green space back into our neighborhood, reconnects it."

Plans to re-direct traffic have been drawn up. There's already been a meeting with Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz.

A University of Wisconsin student in landscape architect was even brought on board to help design a vision for what's being called the 'Eastwood Park Initiative.'

"This will become a greater park area that's more pedestrian friendly, more eco-friendly, bike friendly, alternative transporation, which is something I'm very interested in," said senior Alissa Santurri.

This effort mirrors what's happening in Madison's sister city of Freiburg, Germany, which has a neighborhood called Vauban that's already adopted many of these concepts.

"There's talk of being able to sustain our whole neighborhood through solar energy," said Jan-McMahon.

When asked if the ideas, especially those that address rerouting traffic, could face backlash from drivers who have few corridors as it is to drive through the isthmus, she said, "I think there are a number of indicators that say change is happening, whether you like it or not, and it's up to us to decide what we'd like to change."

While much of these ideas are down the road, Jennie Capellaro keeps growing her vegetables.

"It's just very exicting to do it yourself," said Capellaro. She's happy with the progress in her back yard so far, since she signed on to support Sustainable Atwood.

Sustainable Atwood will hold a kick-off event September 26 to get more of the 6,000 residents interested in these ideas. There's even discussion that residents could collectively measure their environmental footprints, so baselines can be established on future progress.

As for the proposal to close Eastwood Drive, we contacted Mayor Cieslewicz's office about that. "He thinks it's an idea worth exploring, but there's a lot of questions that need to be answered," said mayoral aide Rachel Strauch-Nelson through an email. "He's concerned about how traffic would impact adjacent neighborhoods."

Email Carl Agnelly at cagnelly@wkowtv.com

Follow Carl Agnelly on Twitter.

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