Price Hill community blends urban, rural lifestyles

At first, the telltale signs are barely noticeable. A solar panel here. A chicken in a yard there. But the well-kept houses and abundance of greenspace in one welcoming stretch of Price Hill offers an urban living experience like few in the country.

The seed was planted for the the Enright Ridge Urban Eco-Village back in 1978 when Eileen and Jim Schenk founded the Imago Earth Center. The Price Hill environmental education center serves as a place where visitors reconnect with the natural world, where they experience and learn about nature in a 23-acre preserved greenspace. The Schenks hosted workshops and summer camps, but wanted to do more to follow the environmentally-conscious lifestyle they taught others. 
 
"It made sense for us to pursue a lifestyle like the one we taught," Jim Schenk says. "We're trying to rejuvenate our city and make a place people want to live." 
 
Officially created in 2004 after years of cultivation, Enright Ridge Urban Eco-Village has grown into a community that includes more than 35 households of actively involved residents. Those involved gain access to a co-op for cheaper food, a Zen center and the community-supported agriculture (CSA) program, among other benefits. 
 
The eco-village has an open-door policy for new members, but a small board works to guide the village, and keep its focus on urban renewal clear. Members help each other pursue greener lifestyles, from insulating windows and homes to consume less energy to harvesting rain water for reuse and, ultimately, taking responsibility for one's own energy consumption.
 
"We want to convey the message that we have to live with the earth, not as two separate things," says Deborah Jordan, the eco-village board president. 
 
One large way Enright uses the earth is by growing produce in their own backyards. The CSA, which mirrors the mission of the eco-village, is about to start its fourth growing season. With a professional farmer guiding the other members, the CSA produces fresh peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, corn, onions, lettuces and herbs for half of the year. The seeds are started in the newly renovated greenhouses, which also doubles as a space for equipment storage and a meeting area.

The produce is also grown on plots of land in backyards along the street. Members pay an annual fee to receive the produce, but can offset the price by volunteering to help grow the produce. The CSA, which requires many members to pool time and resources to achieve growing and harvesting goals, is open to people outside of the eco-village and this year will supply more than 60 shares.
 
"The CSA is a recent development, and it's an outgrowth of the energy in the neighborhood," Jordan says. "We're growing enough food for everyone in our own backyards."
 
The CSA is a community-wide effort the eco-village worked together to achieve, but residents of Enright Avenue are constantly looking for ways to be more eco-friendly. One neighbor recently started a green-cleaning service, and has since been hired by other residents. Another member had the idea to create rainfall catchment systems, which are now installed in several homes. The next big venture for the eco-village is to become certified as a National Wildlife Federation (NWF) Community. The NWF certifies individual houses for being sensitive and supportive of other life forms.
 
"It is basically a proclamation that we are developing a community that is conscious and lives side-by-side with other species," Schenk says. 
 
To further its reach into the surrounding community, the eco-village became a non-profit in 2007 and has since purchased and rehabbed almost 10 homes and a commercial space. The eco-village has expanded onto nearby McPherson Avenue and currently has several houses for sale. After purchasing a home, the community works together to rehab it, sometimes including solar panels and energy efficient windows.
 
While not every house on the street participates in the eco-village, it does spark everyone's interest. In the past five years, Schenk can only remember one or two people who moved onto the street without interest in the eco-village. 
 
"There are people who have lived here for years and just enjoy the fact that we are around," Jordan says. "They may not be as eco-minded as us, but it definitely draws them, too."
 
Being eco-friendly isn't the only goal of the eco-village. Neighbors also foster a tight-knit community that includes monthly potlucks, community workshops and a newsletter. Enright Eco-Village also hosts monthly tours to share their neighborhood and ideas with others interested in moving to the village or starting one of their own.
 
"The combination is to live greener and live in community," Schenk says. "One of our dreams is to see these ideas spread to other parts of the city,"
 
While much about Enright Urban Eco-Village can make it seem like a neighborhood that is one of a kind, and not possible in many neighborhoods, take a drive, walk or bike ride down Enright Avenue, and the only difference may be a chicken in someones yard or a solar panel on a roof.
 
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