Happy fifth anniversary, Ecovillage
July 2, 2012
By Jill Rothenbueler Maher
July marks the fifth anniversary of Bay View’s Ecovillage, perhaps one of the neighborhood’s most unique living arrangements. The “village” consists of two duplexes, 2846-48 and 2850-52 S. Linebarger Terrace, that house seven adults and three children abiding with one another like a multi-generational family.
The Ecovillage name reflects the group’s aspirations toward environmental action and the importance they place on social connections. The book Ecovillage Living: Restoring the Earth and Her People was one of the founders’ influences that motivated them to create their alternate housing project.
In July 2007, Mark Gill purchased one of the duplexes. Eric and Alison Maynard purchased the other, which they occupied with their son Paul. They were joined by fellow founder David Johnson, and then they began renting space to unaffiliated tenants.
Some of the highlights of the community are their annual onsite party (Ecobash), presentations at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association Energy Fair, and home improvements—a water catchment system and a high efficiency boiler, for example.
Gill and the Maynards are still residents—even after the Maynards’ divorce, along with other members who came and moved on over the years.
The group cooperatively grows and tends their gardens where they grow vegetables and eight types of fruit, including strawberries and cherries. They have improved their gardening techniques over the years. Their rain barrel and backup rain reservoir or “rock catchment” store up to 90 gallons of water from the garage roof. Gill, with no trace of “eco superhero” superiority, like other members, doles out informal advice to neighbors interested in trying gardening or getting more eco-friendly.
The founders said they expected the average tenancy of a member to be approximately three years and took that into account when they structured the community.
Members gather for community dinners each Thursday and Sunday. They make joint decisions about community spending and share some belongings like tools. Some utility bills, particularly the water bill, are shared. Mortgage, property taxes, and insurance are considered in establishing the rental price so that the owners do not bear the full burden of home ownership. They share three meals per week, disagree sometimes just as family members do, and support one another through difficulties like divorce and depression.
One of the newest members, Rebekah Leger, who moved from Portland with her husband and two children observed, “The best thing about the community is the support because we don’t have family here in town. And it’s so nice to have the support. It’s really like a family for us here.”
The Legers learned of the group through Craigslist. Ecovillage also advertises vacancies through ic.org, the Intentional Communities website, through organizations like Victory Garden Initiative, and by simple word-of-mouth.
Outsiders often ask about privacy, but members say they have sufficient privacy because they can retreat to their own living spaces to seek time away from the group.
Six-year-old Paul Maynard seems to enjoy his lifestyle. “If I wasn’t in a community, I’d run away to another community,” he teased.
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