Thanks to the 2017 Keep America Beautiful/ Lowe’s Community Partners Grant Program, Keep Akron Beautiful (KAB) helped fight illegal dumping through beautification and revitalization of the Elaine Evan’s Memorial Children’s Garden. Formerly known as the Children’s Garden, the site was installed by Let’s Grow Akron (LGA) in 1997 by founder, Elaine Evans with the help of Keep Akron Beautiful who helped eradicate a huge illegal dumpsite, making room for the installation of a man-made stream, a canal boat replica, an arbor and several flowerbeds. Twenty years after its installation, KAB identified a need to return to the site to help address the illegal dumping and drug related issues that affect the surrounding community at Summit Lake.
Unkempt landscaping became overgrown with weeds and poison ivy, untrimmed trees threatened electrical lines, vines took over the arbor, wasps became a persistent problem and the canal boat replica was subject to the elements leaving it with broken wooden boards, peeling paint and exposed nails. In addition to becoming an eyesore, the site is located on an isolated road with no visibility from the surrounding streets, giving those who are trying to illegally dump or do/sell drugs, all the privacy to do so. KAB receives complaints from citizens and reports from the City Information hotline as a site where illegal dumping continues to take place. KAB litter crews frequently remove construction debris, furniture, portable meth labs, whip-its, used needles and discarded animal carcasses.
The 2017 Keep America Beautiful/ Lowe’s Community Partners Grant Program acted as a catalyst and KAB is proud to know they were able to build stronger communities via the revitalization of the Elaine Evan’s Memorial Children’s Garden by helping to beautify public spaces, reduce illegal dumping and strengthen relationships with members of the community.
Work began in August, thanks to the City of Akron who performed maintenance to the road and installed new lighting making the park more accessible and safe for pedestrians and cyclists. Advanced Arboriculture, spent multiple days at the site to trim and remove dead trees, clearing overgrown brush, vines and poison ivy and remove a section of a mature willow tree. This helped increase the visibility of the park to the surrounding neighborhood while removing safety hazards, which was crucial for the volunteer groups that followed. Next, KGK Gardening and Design donated a crew and equipment to excavate the man-made stream. By removing boulders, dirt, weeds and the plastic lining beneath it, KGK created a space that would be easy to maintain. On September 10, KAB welcomed volunteers during First Congregational Church of Hudson’s First Serve event. A group of Hudson high school students stained the arbor and continued clearing brush. The First Serve volunteers also donated a dumpster for debris disposal and over 300 daffodil bulbs.
On September 14, KAB welcomed OEC volunteers as part of their Community Connections Day, a collaboration made possible by the BVU: The Center for Nonprofit Excellence. Volunteers worked with KAB and LGA to remove fencing, stones from old flowerbeds, and sod from a new flowerbed. Volunteers from Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, under the leadership of KAB Board Member, Chastity Duskey, continued the work on new bed installation, removing more sod, tilling in compost and edging the beds with rocks repurposed from the man-made stream. Goodyear volunteers stained four picnic tables donated by Lowe’s. Crew members from Advanced Arboriculture returned to the site to install new fencing.
On October 3, The Lowe’s Heroes team from the Fairlawn Store, under the leadership of Store Manager, Gary Sutor, began to renovate the canal boat replica, removing the flooring, benches and other places where the wood had deteriorated, installing new flooring and benching in its place. Lowe’s installed pollinator gardens under the supervision of KAB Flowerscape Director, Leah Hesier.
From the beginning, KAB worked closely with LGA Executive Director, Lisa Nunn, to ensure the plant selection and changes to the park stay true to both Elaine Evans vision of the Children’s Garden and with the current goals of LGA. Staff and volunteers from LGA worked side by side volunteers and KAB staff throughout the projects entirety.
This project has helped to change the negative stigma which has long plagued the Summit Lake neighborhood and restored pride among existing neighbors, inviting newcomers for a fresh perspective on the Lake.