This Land is Your Land

Pierre Charles L'Enfant designed Washington, DC with an abundance of public squares and parks. His intention in doing so was to create an egalitarian city with outdoor spaces to be enjoyed by the public. The centerpiece of his plan, the National Mall, was conceived as a great "public walk". L'Enfant's philosophy, now enshrined between granite federal buildings and brick townhouses established that public spaces "belong" to the public.

Homeowners tend to their front yards, which ironically in the Capitol Hill Historic District are designated as public space, but few perceive the sidewalk and tree boxes within the realm of their stewardship. Property owners are required to shovel snow from the sidewalk, so the precedent exists that the public have the implicit right, if not responsibility to maintain these areas. The city government acknowledges as much in promulgating regulations about the planting of tree boxes along with property maintenance standards.

The Guerrilla Gardeners attitude is one of "hands on" when it comes to public spaces mixed with a mildly defiant undertone of "tell us to stop." This shift in perception, when infused into the community empowers people to raise the quality of life with regard to their surroundings.


People don't usually notice the absence of weeds, but they notice the presence of weeds and it creates or confirms a negative perception of a block or neighborhood. Thus, a neighborhood that looks better will be better because it will be perceived as better by ourselves and others. This change in perception will change behavior. Cleaning up public spaces is just the start of the transformation of our community. Our version of Guerrilla Gardening embodies a form of holistic civic activism. We pull weeds from sidewalks and gutters. We pick up litter. We report graffiti, rodents, illegal dumping, abandoned cars, broken streetlights, unsafe sidewalk, neglected properties and other issues that have a negative impact on the quality of life.

The Next Step

We can do more working with community groups and government agencies.