Of all the positive attributes of a neighborhood one considers during home tours and online searches, the quality of the neighbors is an uncertainty. Sure, you see people showing signs of friendliness as you enter the street or waving, but you consider what the relationship would be like if you made this place your permanent home. One such small street in our West Paces neighborhood underwent a sort of relationship challenge this past month. The issue in question was what to do with a dilemma in the shared cul de sac space. You see, some forty years ago a set of plants was planted and thrived in the cul de sac. These plants became so healthy that they married to form one six foot high bush stretching eleven feet at its widest point. A small family of rabbits lived under this bush and would often be seen frolicking in the dusky light as families were preparing dinner. Remarkable as it was, the bush provided a problem. No one was able to see anything behind the bush. This may not seem catastrophic when all residents are above five feet tall and the legal driving age; however, this small street went from a population of one to ten children within the span of 18months. What a tremendous sign of continued life energy in a stable community. Small children come with a greater need for outdoor space in order to expel their wild appetite for movement. Several neighbors discussed the possibility of removing the bush since no car approaching would be able to see a gaggle of small children on the pavement behind this monstrous green habitat. The discussion remarks varied from the length and breadth of the bush's history to the well being of its' furry inhabitants. After much deliberation, several engaged neighbors polled their direct neighbors and all agreed that the safety of the current community outweighed the history of the bush.
Without any voiced objections, the bush was removed for a little over one hundred dollars. Fabulous, no obstruction at the base of the hill. Drat, no appealing feature or object to focus on when driving through the cul de sac. Action time. Each invested neighbor sought a landscaping company of their choosing to find bids, ideas, and material suggestions that would best suit our community. These bids, as you can imagine, ranged from under one thousand dollars to over four and a half thousand. Money led the decision, as it often does. We selected the long time landscaper of several homes on the street who envisioned a large simple grass segment with a mulched space for seating. Utilizing our resources, I was sent, on behalf of the street, to petition the board for a contribution to the project. My pitch was simple- the neighborhood shows support of the board through consistent membership rates and is seeking assistance to enhance and create beauty in a communal space. After offering written proposals from the landscape team, the board approved a contribution of two hundred dollars. With that two hundred in hand, I approached the landscape team to schedule sod and mulch installation. Neighbors eagerly awaited the next phase of the project. This empty land did not deter the children from turning it into imaginable spaces. Sod was installed for eight hundred dollars. Well, neighbors came out of the woodwork with fiscal contributions and ideas for seating options. We agreed on purchasing two five foot benches and almost over night, the sod settled in to it's new home, the mulch arrived a week later, and benches were assembled the following week. Neighbors even scoured nearby estate sales for planters. Then one Sunday afternoon, eureka, two concrete planters were found off Habersham at such a sale. For a little over one hundred dollars, two knee-high sturdy planters, with flowers I might add, were delivered to the end of our small street.
Neighbors reveled in this open yet inviting meeting place. The children began playing pick up soccer matches, a football game on the fly, and meeting in the circle. For New Year's Eve, a small fireworks display was held and five families gathered, bundled and carrying bubbly to ring in 2016 at 6:00pm. Remember, lots of small children! The week after, a fire bowl was added and many warmly dressed couples brought blankets and came to the circle for fireside conversation. Obviously, the completed circle has only been in action for several weeks, but already neighbors comment about the draw towards the space. This experience demonstrates the power of beautification. Through a series of compromises and generosity, our neighborhood now has a common space which bridges the needs of twelve families, stayed within a modest budget, and provides a long term solution to an existing problem.
Beautification has made that difference. Our small street may have lost a small family of rabbits, but in return we have enriched our lives and the lives of our children for years to come.
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