Neighbors unite beautifying turf

Connor Monroe plants a vinca plant alongside his grandmother Cari Monroe at the second annual Tower Hill neighborhood beautification project. The event took place Saturday morning.
Published on: 5/22/2013

The weather is finally warm and people can be seen working in their yards. On May 18, residents in the Tower Hill neighborhood — formerly the Westside Neighborhood — all came out to work and celebrate the coming of summer with their second neighborhood beautification project.

Laura Dombrock of the Waukesha County University of Wisconsin-Extension branch explained that as part of the event last year, planters were installed along Madison Avenue in the terrace between the sidewalk and street. Residents along Madison Avenue volunteered to supply flowers and take care of the planters.

"It's all about flowers; it's all about beautification," said Dombrock.

She explained that the idea for the project was started because residents "feel that (Madison Avenue) is a gateway street into downtown and they wanted to beautify it." She added that the road also seems to be a prime location for litter, so "They thought maybe people would think twice before littering when they see the beautiful flowers."

A $5,800 grant was awarded last year from Waukesha Memorial Hospital to pay for the 13 planters. The project was such a success that residents planned and organized a second event this year.

Waukesha Memorial Hospital donated $5,000 this year toward the project which provided an additional 10 planters which were installed on May 18. Dombrock explained that each planter is about 2-feet-tall and weighs 425 pounds empty.

"The hospital wanted to be a good neighbor so they thought this was something that they could support," Dombrick stated. The hospital also donated a Tower Hill sign to the neighborhood, she added.

The event was held in conjunction with Bloom and Groom, a project sponsored by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation with a grant from Lowes, which allowed residents in the area to pre-order flats of flowers at a discounted rate. The flowers, including salvia, petunia, marigolds, impatiens, and begonia, were delivered to residents during the beautification event. Though it was the first year for the Bloom and Groom event, Dombrock said that "we hope to make it an annual event." Though everyone could have planted their flowers on their own, she explained that "it's more fun to do it all together as a neighborhood. Everyone planted at the same time."

"We have residents who just want to keep this a clean neighborhood," Dombrock said. She hopes that it will encourage people to "stop and smell the roses."

New resident to Madison Avenue Jane Barrett was one of the participants in this year's planter project. Jane and her husband bought their home last June, and she explained that "it's a nice historic home and a little bit older so we just wanted to do this as a project for ourselves."

Barrett is one of many residents who meet on a monthly basis, and whom also helped plan this event. Barrett stated that the UW Extension was helpful in planning the event in that they talked about things that connected the neighbors, taught them how to bring everyone together, and to feel comfortable and connected. "I think that was nice," she said.

Another Madison Avenue resident, Jennifer Andrews, participated in the event this year and last year. She said that while her husband has an interest in gardening, "it's been fun for us to expand and be able to expand beyond the yard."

As someone who likes to garden, "it's nice to see people taking pride in their homes," Barrett said. She plans to keep participating in this event.

"I think it's just a great project to get neighbors to feel like they are connected to other people," said Barrett.

Andrews said that the project has drawn attention to area, drawn neighbors together, and has encouraged people to put more effort into the appearance of the area. "In a greater sense, it's just unified the neighborhood."

"The residents need the credit for this planter project," Dombrock stated.

On top of the event being great for the appearance of the neighborhood, it has also brought the community together. "Not everyone really knew everyone," Barrett explained. "It's hard to get to know your neighbors." After the event, she said "it's fun to be able to work with people with the planters and get to know other neighbors and see other planters. It was nice to feel like we were part of the whole neighborhood group."

As for the future of the beautification, "we just plan on connecting (the planters) all the way down Madison Avenue and hopefully connect to some of the other major thoroughfares, said Barrett." She added that "I think it really makes people think about the outsides of their homes and how it looks."