Header LogoSpatial Contagion of Easement Gardens

Spatial Contagion of Easement Gardens

My research team recently completed a sidewalk survey of easement areas throughout the entire city of Ann Arbor.  Of the 22,000 properties we surveyed, 11% (~2500) held easement gardens.  Working with Dan Brown, a colleague who specialized in GIS, we found that people were more likely to have an easement garden if another occurred within 300 feet from their home.  We also found that gardens with the most appealing looks were also spatially clustered. In this case, the social contagion factor was much closer to home -~100 feet.  In other words, you are more likely to see a pair of very pleasing easement gardens next door or across the street from one another.  For more, see:

Hunter & Brown 2012 Spatial contagion in neighborhood easement gardens. Landscape and Urban Planning.  105:407-416

Easement Garden Cluster Map

This summer, the investigation of easement gardens took a new turn.  About 1200 homeowners were asked to complete a questionnaire to get insight into why, how and when easement gardens were created and how they are received by the Ann Arbor community.  Stay tuned for new results about people’s relationship with urban nature in public areas of their neighborhoods.

Easement Gardens

I’ve put a lot of time into these narrow tracts of land because taken together they form a network of public habitat through Ann Arbor (or any city for that matter) that could better support the wellbeing of urban ecosystem members– for example, people, butterflies and birds.  Studies have shown that the conversion of any area of lawn to garden increases the number and diversity of pollinators, and increases the capacity of the land to absorb stormwater.  This means less need for irrigation and greater protection of local streams.  There’s something in it for us as well.  The act of gardening is known to improve physical and mental well being.  So, any way you cut it, gardening in the easement area has positive benefits for us and the environment we live in.  If easement gardens were embraced by many homeowners, the collective effort could result in greater ecological resilience in the face of the ongoing disturbance that comes with greater urbanity.


School of Natural Resources and Environment | University of Michigan