Keep Highway Park Beautiful – Rescuing a Resting Place

Volunteers from the Interact Club consisting of students from Lake Placid High School and Lake Placid Middle School under the guidance of Deputy Michael Brod joined the Keep Highway Park Beautiful Commission, the Highway Park Neighborhood Council and local volunteers to clear brush and overgrowth from the historic Highway Park Cemetery.

Almost unreadable headstones lay broken, toppled and overgrown by weeds. Large trees with deep roots are shifting monuments and toppling other headstones. “Each of those stones has an interesting story to it and it is important to maintain that piece of our town’s history. We must not let it be buried, literally, again,” said Evelyn Colon, executive director of the Highway Park Neighborhood Council, in appeals to the community to help restore the cemetery.

Over 15 volunteers, most from within the Highway Park Community, came to help with this cleanup. Debris, shrubbery and trash filled 29 over-sized garbage bags. The 20-foot flagpole holding the U.S. flag, which had been damaged in a storm, was removed to be replaced in the very near future. Loose stones were picked up, grass was mowed, weeds trimmed away from the graves, and trees were trimmed.

Unincorporated towns with no budgets have often had little to no money to improve their cemeteries, leading to disrepair, crumbling gravestones, overgrown grass, persistent weeds, and no irrigation to sustain flowers or grass. This cleanup is one of many planned activities to restore the Highway Park Cemetery. It is hoped that with this and subsequent efforts, the cemetery will be better preserved to include historic signage and fencing.

The Highway Park Neighborhood Council, Keep Highway Park Beautiful and the Highway Park Ministerial Alliance are working together to beautify and restore dignity to our cemetery. Donations are welcome. For more information or to volunteer, please call Tiffany Green, HPNG president, at 863-840-2995.

Keep Brunswick County Beautiful, Bolivia, NC

This Keep Brunswick County Beautiful project has transformed a ¾-acre, partially fenced-in rough field area in an undeserved geographical area into a fully supplied community garden that is aesthetically pleasing.

The garden area includes: 30 raised beds, including six that are potentially wheel-chair accessible; a garden shed with gutters and two rain barrels; a composting area; two picnic tables; a bench; four water hydrants for water accessibility; and an outdoor enclosed bulletin board. Some key points of interest include two keyhole beds that are especially low on water consumption and are great educational tools for sustainability; a shed that includes individual storage bins for gardeners that can also function as a communication tool; dry-erase boards inside the shed doors also for communication; and compost bins made from recycled pallets. We also landscaped the outside perimeter of the fence.

The project was funded by a KAB/Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant, with many different organizations, local contractors, and individual volunteers participating in the physical construction of the garden. We hope that our project will aid local residents in areas of community pride, healthy nutrition, movement for healthy lifestyles, supplying local food pantries with fresh produce, and social interaction and integrative activities.

The community has been extremely positive about the project. People have personally told us that they used to “just not drive in that area.” Now they do so purposefully, just to look at the garden. One person said it makes her feel happy when she drives by. When we are working in the garden, an increasing number of people just stop by to chat or ask questions or request information. It is extremely rewarding. I have also seen neighboring properties taking more pride in the appearance of their yards and homes.

Keep McAllen Beautiful, McAllen, Texas

Keep McAllen Beautiful has completed it’s sustainable irrigation pilot project! Thanks to the KAB/Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant, and with some great help from the City of McAllen, KMB and its volunteers installed a beautification project on a major thoroughfare in McAllen, Texas. The project is particularly special as it demonstrates an innovative new method of irrigation which uses solar-powered pumps and stormwater runoff to irrigate the plant matter that was installed for the project.

The project was accomplished with help from high school volunteers, professional architects and engineers, and the dedicated employees from the City of McAllen. It represents an innovation in water conservation and environmentally sustainable urban beautification projects. “Project Grove,” as the effort has been dubbed, includes 23 native trees and over 600 climate-adapted plants on a major thoroughfare in the McAllen cityscape. It reuses stormwater runoff captured in a city drainage canal and re-utilizes this water to maintain the plants and trees planted along the side of the street.

Keep McAllen Beautiful thanks all the volunteers, Lowe’s, Keep America Beautiful, and the City of McAllen for making this project possible! We hope it helps to establish a new standard of environmental responsibility and innovative conservation in our community!

Orange County Coastkeeper, Costa Mesa, CA

Thanks to a KAB/Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant, Orange County Coastkeeper opened the Coastkeeper Garden, a demonstration garden featuring six native plant communities, drought-tolerant vegetation, and a natural playground. The grant helped us establish an active docent program, launch a series of free workshops, and complete construction on our natural playground. The garden sits on a parcel of land behind a community college that was previously vacant, untended and unused. The space is now flourishing and vibrant, helping to connect youth to the natural environment and inspiring local residents how to save water and reduce water pollution.

The natural playground, in particular, has been a positive and meaningful addition to the community, providing a unique venue for children to play and explore. We’ve had hundreds of young visitors come to enjoy the deer grass maze, willow tree tunnel, and log pathways. We’ve also hosted a number of events designed to promote nature connection and creativity, including adobe brick building, pumpkin painting, and for older kids, making succulent arrangements.

Our sustainable landscaping workshop series has had a great start. These hands-on workshops are offered free of charge, and inspire local residents to plan, design, and maintain their own drought-tolerant gardens. Our vision is that every visitor to the garden will carry away the message that water and energy conservation can be simple, cost-efficient, low-maintenance, and beautiful.

GET (Green Explorer Trails) Outdoors in Houston, TX

We were thrilled to find out that Lantrip Elementary and Lantrip Blooms (our parent support group) was awarded a $20,000 Keep America Beautiful/Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant. We were the only elementary school out of the entire list of grant recipients. We felt honored and overwhelmed at the task that lay ahead!

Our aim was to engage students and adults in outdoor activities by having many visible and intriguing outdoor projects. We wanted to bring nature into an urban area. Our greatest success is that the Lantrip campus has been entirely transformed. The mulch trails and decomposed granite paths we created help to clearly define the space and better frame its features. Huge cypress trees that were barely noticed now stand out and line the pathway. The path is about one-quarter of a mile; they’re used almost daily because our students participate in Marathon Kids (they complete 26 miles over the course of six months). The 12 raised garden beds are symmetrically placed in a grid and sit on top of a decomposed granite pad that also serves as a new outdoor classroom. We now have two areas of outdoor seating with picnic benches. Our goal is to line the pathways with interactive learning stations where the children can explore various aspects of environmental science and connect to the outdoors with more information through signage and QR codes.

Our project generated enthusiasm and engaged more parents at Lantrip than ever before. Historically, the PTO (Parent-Teacher Organization) had been largely dysfunctional and had alienated parents. The GET Outdoors project demonstrated to parents that our parent support group had changed, and being awarded this grant clearly signaled this to the entire school. Even more than that, the successful implementation of this grant had generated enthusiasm in nearby schools and created enthusiasm far beyond the Lantrip community. Many partners participated in the implementation of this grant including: the USDA Forest Service, The Friends of the National Forests and Grasslands of Texas, The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, Texas A&M Forest Service and Agrilife. Our newest partner, the Lowe’s Heroes, volunteered in rain and mud; their contribution to this project was indispensable.

There remain several small tasks to complete, but the overall vision of this project was actualized. The buzz this project created locally was likened to the momentum of a runaway train, by Houston Independent School District Board Member Juliet Stipeche. She also mentioned that this project was unlike anything in recent memory. This project has brought together the entire community and encouraged other area schools to try their hand at grant writing and to participate in ongoing “green” efforts. Additionally, our school and several other East End schools are being tested as a pilot model for the USDA Forest Service GreenSchools! to create a Greenbelt of participating area schools. The KAB/Lowe’s grant facilitated the progression of all these projects.

Keep Kansas City Beautiful, Kansas City, MO

Keep Kansas City Beautiful’s Lowe’s/KAB Community Improvement Spotlight Project successfully strengthened the partnership and collaboration between existing Kansas City conservation organizations working on individual goals by combining their missions and expertise to build a five-mile, single-track trail between the Swope Park wilderness trail system through an urban forest to the Blue River Glades wilderness trail system two miles south, while concurrently removing thick stands of invasive exotic shrub honeysuckle to improve the forest’s health and create a more beautiful trail corridor. Project Partners included Keep Kansas City Beautiful (coordination, litter abatement), Kansas City WildLands (focusing on natural area restoration), Earth Riders Trails Association (focusing on wilderness hike/bike trails), Missouri Department of Conservation, Kansas City Parks and Recreation and Jackson County Parks and Recreation (natural resource and land managers of the Project site). In addition to building trail, the Project included removing thick stands of invasive shrub honeysuckle that choked out the woodland’s biodiversity and created visual barriers along the trail corridors.

Over 200 volunteers from schools, neighborhoods and corporations participated in a series of workdays that addressed litter and dump-site cleanup, invasive shrub honeysuckle removal along the trail corridor, and the flagging, cutting and finishing of single-track trail from Swope Park to Blue River Glades (approximately eight miles of trail corridor total). Engaging so many volunteers in the trail-cutting and honeysuckle removal over several workdays served not only to provide the labor-intensive work involved (work that is beyond the resource capacity of budget-confined Parks Departments), but also to connect these volunteers to the land through education and hands-on work, resulting in the long term sustainability of the project through new committed stakeholders.

By connecting the Swope Park and Blue River Glades wilderness areas via new trail (and significantly increasing the contiguous length of trail), and by removing thick stands of invasive shrub honeysuckle from the trail corridor, the project’s partners have provided an important venue for Kansas City urban and suburban citizens to connect to a healthy natural wild place, and to find their “sense of place” within the city. We believe the connector trail/woodland restoration is now safer for hiking and biking. We hope the healthier and more aesthetically-pleasing public forest and accessible trail will engage and inspire Kansas City citizens for decades to come!

Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful, Reno, NV

Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful (KTMB) was a recipient of a 2013 Keep America Beautiful/Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant. KTMB, an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, partnered with the Lowe’s Store (#3034) located in Sparks, Nev., to provide community improvement projects located in close proximity to the store involving Lowe’s associates working side-by-side with community volunteers. The project is comprised of two KTMB’s signature programs: Adopt-A-Spot and Adopt-A-Park.

KTMB’s Adopt-A-Spot program is a grassroots roadside litter abatement program is widely popular here in the Truckee Meadows. Through the Community Improvement Grant, the Lowe’s store in Sparks adopted a stretch of road along Sparks Boulevard, a major artery road which leads directly from the city’s residential areas into Legends Shopping Center where Lowe’s is located. The road is also one of the major arteries leading to the I-80 freeway entrance/exit. A sign was installed by the City of Sparks stating that the stretch of road has been adopted by Lowe’s. Lowe’s associates coordinated with KTMB for three cleanups, and KTMB provided all the cleanup supplies (rakes, trashbags, and gloves).

The Adopt-A-Park project with Lowe’s took place at the City of Sparks’ crown jewel, the Sparks Marina, which is located in close proximity to the Lowe’s store. The picturesque Sparks Marina accommodates swimming, boating, fishing, scuba diving and picnicking facilities, and breath-taking views of the nearby mountains. With a two-mile walking path, trees and sandy beaches surrounding a 77-acre lake, the Sparks Marina is a perfect setting for family fun; there were more than 350,000 visits last year alone. The Sparks Marina officially opened in 2000, and 13 years of use has taken its toll. The much-loved park has been in need of repairs as the City of Sparks has had to reduce its maintenance budget because of the economic recession. The Community Improvement Grant allowed for much-needed repairs, weed abatement and trash pick-up to occur at the Marina on KTMB’s Make a Difference Day on Saturday, Nov. 2. Tools were purchased from the Lowe’s store for the Sparks Parks and Recreation Department and for this project with grant funding. Fifty-five community and Lowe’s Heroes participated in cleanup and beautification efforts at Sparks Marina with 85 bags of Russian Thistle and other invasive weeds being collected and 10 bags of trash filled.

KTMB looks forward to an ongoing partnership with the Lowe’s store in Sparks. Thank you to Assistant Store Manager, David Berntzen, for your help and support. Thank you Lowe’s and Keep America Beautiful for this grant opportunity.