The newly formed West End Beautification Committee and their volunteers have conducted two planting projects in their neighborhood, one in June and the other this week. Last Saturday, the group held Tidy Day, a clean-up event in preparation for Irish Heritage Day on Oct. 1. Patch recently interviewed committee co-chairs Mary Ellen Pollina and Judy Rudnic.
Patch: What inspired the West End Beautification Committee and when and did it get started?
Pollina: During this year’s Memorial Day parade I was horrified by the condition of West Beech Street. Here were all these families waving flags and cheering while standing amid discarded beer bottles, pizza boxes and weeds. I asked the City Council to address the issue of the increased litter during the summer months and told them if they would provide the flowers, mulch, top soil and fencing, I would create a committee to plant them under the trees on Beech Street.
Meanwhile, Judy was sweeping the gutters on her end of Beech Street because she couldn’t bear to stand in the litter while waiting for the bus. The Secretary of West End Neighbors Civic Association put me in touch with Judy and the city provided the flowers, mulch and topsoil for the first Beautification Day on June 18.
Last Saturday, Sept. 24, was the committee’s first Tidy Day. Elaborate on the purpose of this day and what was accomplished?
Rudnic: We had regretted not cleaning up and freshening the tree beds for the Waterfront Warriors Parade in July so we were determined to prepare Beech Street for the Irish Day parade. In Ireland there is a tradition called Tidy Town. Groups of citizens clean their neighborhood and compete for the title of most Tidy Town. Our Tidy Day was not a competition but we wanted to capture the same spirit of community. The event was a huge success! A father with his young son, members of the women’s Ancient Order of Hibernians, WENCA, Denise Ford, a local businessman and several neighbors, friends and relatives swept the streets and gutters, removed discarded trash and outdated posters and stickers from streetlights. This week over 100 mums were planted along the parade route thanks to a generous donation from the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned from your first two clean-ups?
Pollina: We’ve learned that the people who live in the West End love their community. We’ve also learned that we need a lot of planning and publicity to generate volunteers. We definitely need the support of the business community and local organizations so that we can continue our cleaning and greening efforts. Oh, and we’ve learned that petunias need too much water to survive on Beech Street.
The committee has developed a program in which businesses can receive an award for their exemplary cleanliness. Please give us more details about this initiative?
Pollina and Rudnic: Our primary focus at this stage in our committee’s efforts is the Beech Street commercial district. We want it to be clean, green and safe in order to support our current business owners and attract the additional businesses that our community needs: a bakery, gourmet deli, fruit market, bank, etc. We want strolling down Beech Street to be a pleasurable experience, and for that we need the involvement of the businesses.
So we developed the concept of a Good Neighbor Award and one of the members of WENCA, Jerry Romanoff, offered his help in developing the program. Each of the businesses received a packet that describes the benefits of participation and the criteria for the award: litter free sidewalks and curbs, proper garbage preparation, weed free sidewalks, clean windows, etc. Participation in the program is free and those who comply will receive a Good Neighbor award sticker that will be presented in November to display during the holiday shopping season.
What are some of the committee’s long-term goals?
Pollina and Rudnic: We want a street sweeper on Beech Street working all day from New York Avenue to Nevada Avenue from Memorial Day to Labor Day. We want Gum Busters to come and remove those black polka dots on the sidewalk. We want a local artist to create mosaic murals on the walls of two of the city parking lots. We want grates at the bases of the trees to allow more walking space on the narrow sidewalks. We want more bike racks so folks don’t tie their bikes to the trees.
We will have clean-up and planting days the weekends before Memorial Day, the Waterfront Warriors Parade and Irish Day. We’ve acquired the domain name www.westendbeautification.com and we’ll be working on some fundraising activities for next year.