Planting with a purpose: transforming Cleveland’s parks

PERRY TWP -  If plants were people, the harvesting machine at Petitti’s Perry Township Farm would be the object keeps them up at night.

The machine gently plucks the whole plant, roots and all from the ground so they can be either bundled or replanted for sale. Several hundred at a time.

But these plants won't go to a store.

Instead they'll help transform some city parks into showplaces.

“We're right at Gordon Park and we're planting 2000 forsythia in this park right on the hillside. When those plants go to bloom  - and all the plants we're planting are flowering plants - when they go to bloom it's going to be electric,” Petitti said

It's not that the city parks aren't green enough. They sometimes just don't pop with color all year round. The more colorful a park, the more inviting the space

It was a chance meeting between A.J. Petitti and Ricky Smith, founder of Random Acts of Kindness Everywhere or RAKE for short,  that led to what will be a Saturday of planting with a purpose.

“I'm always good at knowing what I’m good at. And knowing what I’m not good at - I linked up with the great guys at Petitti.  AJ  decided how good it would be to plant some trees and plants around the city, and we love this place. If we can come together and make this place more better why not do it?" Smith said.

From Gordon Park on the east side, to Zone Recreation Center on the west side, the city picked about a half a dozen places that will benefit from the event.

It's a true community effort as well. Petitti will provide the plants. MTD-Cub Cadet will bring in the shovels and other gear. All the labor costs nothing since it's all volunteers from around the area.

And this isn't just a one-day effort. Both Petitti and the RAKE volunteers are committed to helping create more vibrant public spaces in Cleveland.

The plants are the things that will open the door, but being engaged will help a sense of community grow and bloom.

“This is something we're hoping to do year after year after year, so what my dream is, what my vision is over five to ten years be able to plant 50,000 to 100,000 plants through the city. Petitti said.

“It's like using the plants and the shrubs as a conduit, as an opening to be in this neighborhood, kind of hang out with the neighborhoods. We're not just Cleveland guys who are big about our sports teams but we care about the city as well," Smith said.

The kick-off will be this Saturday, October 28th at 10 a.m at the upper parking lot of Gordon Park just off East 72nd street.

Volunteers will fan out to six parks and rec enters, Zone Recreation Center, Kirkland Park, Luke Easter Park, Humphrey Park, Gunning Recreation Center and Gordon Park.

They can always use more volunteers.

If you’re interested in volunteering you can contact Random Acts of Kindness Everywhere on Facebook or their website.