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 Riverside Clean & Beautiful, Riverside, CA

Each year on the first Saturday in October in the City of Riverside, CA , Keep Riverside Clean & Beautiful organizes the Santa Ana River & City Waterway Cleanups. The project is in its sixth year as partnership project with the Riverside County Flood Control and local law enforcement. It started out as a small river bottom cleanup with about 75 community volunteers and has grown to 500 volunteers with an expanded footprint of 17 waterway cleanup sites which collected over 34,000 lbs. of waste and bulky items this year. This project has noteworthy impact on the community from an environmental perspective because it prevents so much litter and debris from going into our city waterways, which would ultimately end up in the Pacific Ocean, and all the while preserving the natural habitat that lives within the river bottom. Thank you Lowe’s and the City of Riverside!

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful received a KAB-Lowe’s grant for $20,000 to build 4 new community gardens, upgrade an existing greenhouse to create revenue to sustain a total of 7 community gardens, purchase a trailer to assist with transportation, and provide technical assistance for community gardening efforts in the City of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. This project was in collaboration with Lift Johnstown and Sandyvale Memorial Gardens and Conservancy (Sandyvale). From April thru December 2013, 192 volunteers donated 1,213 hours of their time to this exciting project. Volunteer groups for the project included: Lowe’s Heroes from the Johnstown store, Sandyvale Memorial Gardens and Conservancy, the F.A.I.T.H. Group, Stuver’s Riverside Nursery, Hiram G Andrews, Pine Springs Camp, JUMP/Johnstown United Methodist Parish Organization, Youth Conference Ministries-The Great Escape, Natural Biodiversity, The Johnstown Tomahawks Ice Hockey Team, Bishop McCort High School, and Danchanko Construction.

Charleston Parks Conservancy, Charleston, S.C.

Progress is moving right along at the newest community garden the Charleston Parks Conservancy is developing with the City of Charleston in the West Ashley area.

Five students from the Clemson Architecture Center in Charleston are putting the finishing touches on the 400-square-foot shaded pavilion they designed and built for the garden. The space will be used for community gatherings and a potential farmers market, as well as storage for supplies for gardeners. The Clemson students, under the direction of faculty member David Pastre, built and installed the pavilion in November and early December.

In November, the Conservancy hosted and open houses so local residents could learn more about how to get involved in the community garden, including leasing garden space, volunteering and donating to the project.

Earlier this year the Conservancy received a $20,000 Lowe’s/Keep America Beautiful Community Improvement Grant, to begin development of the garden.

Volunteers have been a tremendous help in getting the fence line cleared and the vegetable garden boxes constructed. As part of the 2013 Trident United Way Day of Caring in September, 18 volunteers from Blackbaud volunteered at the garden. Then in November, we had help from some Lowe’s Heroes, volunteers from the Lowe’s Home Improvement story in West Ashley. They helped us build the community vegetable beds that will eventually be planted for community use.

Plus, a group of cadets from The Citadel in Charleston volunteered at the garden as part of their Leadership Day this fall. We have several more groups ready to dig in the dirt with us so spring is going to be busy!

With help from the Mount Pleasant Land Conservancy, the Charleston Parks Conservancy acquired the 3.7-acre property in August 2011 with the help of the Charleston County Greenbelt program, and recently donated it to the City of Charleston for use as a public park. The community garden under development is part of a citywide partnership between the Conservancy and the city and will provide opportunities for the community to lease space to raise vegetables for personal use, as well as to develop urban farming skills through educational programming, and by providing fresh produce for the Lowcountry Food Bank.

Keep Genesee County Beautiful – Flint, MI

It was a cold and rainy 37 degrees on Nov. 11 when the final touches were completed at the KAB/Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant-supported baseball field in Hardenbrook Park. The  press conference and thank you’s started at 11:30 a.m. with managers from the Flint Township and Burton Lowe’s store on hand as well as a half dozen alumni from the park’s sponsor, the Flint Northern Class of 1974. We watched as the final layer of ball diamond meal was worked into the ground. The bleachers, players’ benches and trash receptacles were in place, and repairs on the backstop had been completed. Now that most of the leaves had dropped, we could clearly see the 450-foot fence line that was the result of the labor of Lowe’s Heroes and Keep Genesee County Beautiful’s community volunteers in September.

The talk quickly turned to planning a ribbon cutting event in the spring at the first baseball game. This generated talk of future baseball tournaments, kick ball games and tee ball games. And, of course, the alumni group added that this means there should be a party and a cook out and other reasons to gather the surrounding community together to celebrate. After the media had left and the bulldozer continued to finish the job, the rain turned into snow, reminding us all that we had the whole winter to plan for the spring kickoff and the renewal of another City of Flint park!

-View a YouTube video of images taken during the Hardenbrook Park cleanup and park improvement project.
-Watch local news coverage of the event on ABC12
-Read local news coverage of the event at the Flint Journal

KALB Garden Project Showing Progress – Athens, AL

Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful, Spirit of Athens, City of Athens, and the Limestone County Commission are so pleased with the progress being made on this community garden project at the Farmer’s Market!

Volunteers have built a shed for needed garden tools, and a gazebo to enhance the property. Our local Lowe’s Heroes donated their time and the supplies to add landscaping and a walkway to the gazebo area.

Doug Doerr, Boy Scout Troop 240, and his troop are working on building raised beds in the front section of the market.  This is Doug’s Eagle Scout project and is one of the largest projects taken on by a local scout.  Mike Doerr, Doug’s father, is on the project team.

Bricks donated by Lynn Persell Home Builders and Bassco Cast Stone will be used for one oblong raised bed and stone block from Lowe’s will be used to build two keyhole beds.  Unused culverts donated by the City of Athens will be turned on end at different heights to be filled with plants and flowers.

The raised beds will need to be filled with soil.  Anyone with good, clean soil they might be willing to donate should contact Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful at 256-233-8728.

The committee is hoping that art students will volunteer to add murals to the culverts to add  some visual interest. There is still a need for a group or individuals who would be willing to oversee the community garden project beyond the groundbreaking of Dec. 7.

Vegetables and fruits will be grown at the garden and donated to Limestone County Churches Involved to be distributed to those in need.

Contact the KALB office at 256-233-8728 or send an email if you would like more information about this project, which was funded, in part, by a Keep America Beautiful/Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant.

Lowe’s Grant Helps Beautify Section of the Mill Creek Greenway Trail, Cincinnati, OH

Keep Cincinnati Beautiful received a $20,000 KAB/Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant that is helping to revitalize part of the Mill Creek Greenway Trail in Camp Washington, in collaboration with the nonprofit Groundwork Cincinnati/Mill Creek (GWC). Lowe’s also provided an additional $3,200 in fieldwork supplies and materials to KCB and GWC to support both organizations’ ongoing work throughout the city.

On Oct. 24, more than 20 Lowe’s Heroes worked alongside 50 students from Withrow High School to beautify a quarter-mile stretch of the Greenway Trail near Mill Creek Road and Ralston Ave. Volunteers landscaped three areas along the path that included shade trees, ornamental grasses, and stone benches. Volunteers also artistically enhanced a section of the site’s chain link fence by weaving colorful strips of salvaged industrial vinyl in a zig-zag pattern. When the project is complete, over 200 panels of chain link fencing will come together to create a colorful art installation.

The project site is part of the planned 14-mile Mill Creek Greenway Trail in the City of Cincinnati that will extend from the Hamilton County Fairgrounds in Carthage to the Ohio River, connecting to the Ohio River Trail on the western and eastern riverfronts. To date, GWC has completed river improvements and constructed the paved hike and bike trail along 3.5 miles of the river, passing through Carthage, Spring Grove Village, Camp Washington, South Cumminsville, and Northside. The greenway trail offers unique opportunities for free and accessible outdoor exercise, recreation, and human-powered transportation.

The Mill Creek Greenway Program is an important component of the Mill Creek Healthy People/Healthy River Strategy that GWC is implementing in collaboration with cross-sector public and private partners, including Keep Cincinnati Beautiful. The strategy also includes ecological improvements, planting edible forest gardens along the river, transforming derelict properties, and providing environmental education programming for thousands of students each year.

View Keep Cincinnati Beautiful’s project photo gallery here.

Beaufort County – City of Beaufort, SC

This Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant Program project took place at 605 West Street in the historic downtown of Beaufort, S.C. It was unique in that it aimed to meet the needs of an individual property owner and beautify a streetscape and neighborhood. The goals of this project were to both help an individual begin to restore his historic home (c. 1880) that had been struck by a tree limb, while also creating an example for the community of how one intervention can make a huge impact on a street and neighborhood. (See video below.)

The owner of this house is legally blind, and had been living for months with a caved-in porch roof. The yard was filled with debris, including the rest of the dead tree. Along the front of the year, a chain-link fence and gate spray-painted orange to help him find the entry was accessed by a make-shift concrete ramp, poured and re-poured over time. Chain-link fence also lined the perimeter of the property, but none of it was actually located on the true property lines. It was overgrown with weeds and small brushy trees.

On Sept. 21, a team of nearly 40 people gathered for 12 hours to work on this project. This was a true community effort and included over 30 Lowe’s Heroes and Marine Corps Air Station volunteers, as well as volunteers from the City of Beaufort, Historic Beaufort Foundation and the Old Commons Neighborhood Association. The construction was coordinated by City Councilman Mike Sutton, whose business specializes in historic preservation construction.

This ambitious project removed the non-historic dilapidated porch, stabilized the side façade and repainted it to match the rest of the house. In addition, the volunteers removed the large dead tree and associated debris, removed the front chain-link fence, installed a proper retaining wall to accommodate the change in grade, installed a “living fence” planted with Carolina Jasmine and lit with solar lights to help the owner find his way. They also landscaped the front and side foundation and fence line visible from the street, relocated the remaining 300 feet of fence to align with the property line, and generally cleaned up all weeds and debris from the yard.

Because a primary goal was to have a positive impact on the streetscape, the majority of the aesthetic focus was put on the front fence and landscaping improvements. This was a significant challenge, as the majority of the front yard between the street and the house had been poured with concrete. Finding a simple, cost-effective, aesthetically-pleasing solution that would blend into the historic neighborhood was our biggest design challenge, but ended up to be one of the biggest successes of the project.