Ken Rice

Ken Rice stands next to the sign at the South Side Community Garden located at the intersections of Home and Friendship streets and Pollack Avenue.

One of the creators of the Lower East Side Community Garden will receive the 2020 Western Pennsylvania Environmental Award.

"I am surprised to have been nominated," Ken Rice said. "Let alone chosen." 

Rice has helped transform abandoned properties throughout New Castle into sustainable community gardens like on the city's East and South sides.

"I am also really glad that they found our mission at the Lower East Side Community Garden to be important," he continued. "I hope the award will bring attention to some of the other great things that are happening in New Castle, Pennsylvania."

Mary Burris of the Lawrence County Conservation District both nominated and told Rice he had won the award at the same time.

In recognition of his achievements, Rice will receive $5,000 from Dominion Energy and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC).

The award is presented annually by Dominion Energy and the PEC to five local organizations that demonstrate leadership, effectiveness and results in making an impact on the environment.

The award winners were chosen by a group of independent judges, environmental experts and PEC staff in response to a call for entries earlier this year. The winners will be honored at a virtual awards ceremony on Nov. 14. Details for registration and participation will be announced later this summer.

Rice has been the driving force behind the redevelopment of blighted, trash-filled properties in New Castle and transforming them into a vibrant community garden creating a positive, far-reaching ripple effect throughout the community.

Through his efforts and those of his many volunteers, approximately seventy families have received free produce from the garden — fruits and vegetables produced without chemical fertilizers, irrigation systems, or manure spreading and requiring no transportation. Soil is being fortified with compost produced onsite, eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers and reducing the amount of debris that might otherwise be going to a landfill.

"The fact that agencies like DON, United Way, The Hoyt, Lawns and Beyond and many others have collaborations with ordinary citizens to help us conserve resources and feed people," he said, "We are truly a community in action."

Rice also wanted to recognize the work done by the Lawrence County Conservation District and Tri-County Cleanways.

In addition to this award, Rice was honored as Volunteer of the Year by Tri-County CleanWays, (Keep Pennsylvania Affiliate of Lawrence, Mercer, and Butler Counties), the Urban Stewardship Award from the Lawrence County Conservation District, and was recognized as one of three Volunteers of the Year statewide by Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful.

Rice has worked for DON Services 12 years.

The Western Pennsylvania Environmental Awards recognizes and honors outstanding achievements of organizations, businesses, and individuals in a wide range of environmental initiatives throughout the region and pays tribute to those that have demonstrated a commitment to environmental excellence, leadership, and accomplishment in their respective fields.


Maria Basileo is a news reporter. She covers Laurel and Shenango school boards and municipal government.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.