The space between the sidewalk and the road is usually perceived as an insignificant piece of public space. Most probably do not even know the name of this space (it’s called a verge for the record). Thanks to one resident's initiative, verges in Halifax, Nova Scotia are looking a lot more attractive these days. Sam Austin found a way to strengthen community bonds, reduce petty crime and even generate a new tourism industry, all with the simple act of planting tulips in Tulip Street’s verges.
Austin began planting tulips outside of his home two years ago. Neighbors quickly took notice. Generous donations from the public and private sector provided residents the opportunity to organize a ‘planting party’ to plant over 10,000 tulip bulbs. No one could have anticipated the outcome of this community initiative.
While the tulips are in bloom for only a small time period, public space that looks cared for deters acts of petty crime. A case can be argued that the flowers have marginally increased public safety and mitigated acts of petty crimes.
Furthermore, the tulip project has generated significant positive press for Halifax. The positive media attention has brought a wave of tulip tourists that inevitably contribute to the local economy. In a city that has experienced waves of urban decay and renewal, the unexpected tourism industry is a welcome source of revenue.
Most importantly, the tulip project makes people happy. Being proud of your residential street or taking a new route to work so you can benefit from Tulip Street’s positive externalities are some of life’s most simple pleasures. In a time when large-scale development is threatening some of our most cherished public places, it’s important to get back to the basics. Planting tulips on Tulip Street is an inexpensive, cohesive community initiative that demonstrates how small-scale ideas can have large-scale impacts.