Groups get big bucks for beautification

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Councilwoman Priscilla Tyson, chair of Recreation and Parks, speaks at a presentation ceremony for the local organizations receiving the Landscape Enhancement and Beautification in Public Spaces grant. Local organizations Friends of Westgate and Friends of the Hilltop were both awarded grants.

Spring is here and with it comes the usual beautification projects for neighborhood streets and parks.

One thing that’s new this year, however, is that the projects are going to cost a little less for two local groups.

Friends of the Hilltop and Friends of Westgate Park were both recently awarded grants for $1,000 from Columbus Recreation and Parks Committee. The money will be used towards flowers, plants, mulch, top soil, weed control, and equipment to make the parks beautiful places for residents to enjoy.

This is the first year for the Landscape Enhancement and Beautification in Public Spaces project, an effort headed by Columbus Council member and Recreation and Parks Committee Chair, Priscilla Tyson.

According to Lisa Grazier, president of Friends of Westgate Park, 21 different groups applied for the grants. Ten groups received the funding.

A committee made up of Columbus Recreation and Parks forestry and horticultural staff members reviewed the applications and selected the winners.

The grant requires that the money be used to improve existing beds.

Grazier who plans to stretch the dollars out over the summer, says she would like to invest in perennials for Westgate.

“It may not look like much right away, but give them a couple of years and it’s going to be fantastic!” she said.

Friends of the Hilltop plans to focus the money in two main areas, according to their grant application. They will use it to purchase items to plant and maintain flowers and greenery in the 17 large planters that the group own along West Broad Street. These planters were described by Gary Baker, President of Friends of the Hilltop, as “a signature of the Hilltop.”

They will also utilize the grant in their efforts to maintain the traffic calming elements on Lechner Avenue just south of Floral Avenue.

Another condition of the grant is that the funding be matched by the organization receiving the grant. This can be done either by spending a matching dollar amount and providing receipts and bills, or by matching with volunteer hours.

The city of Columbus has valued volunteer hours at $18.55 per hour.

Using this number, Friends of Westgate had over $5,000 in volunteer hours during the summer of 2007, according to Grazier.

“We won’t have any problem matching the dollars in volunteer hours,” she added.

Friends of the Hilltop, which also puts in many volunteer hours over the summer, will be able to match the grant in dollars. The week they applied for the grant, the group received two anonymous donations of $1,000 each for the purpose of matching the grant.

“We are extremely grateful to Councilwoman Tyson and Recreation and Parks, specifically Mr. Mark Young, assistant director, for making this happen at Westgate Park. We also appreciate the support of Carol Adams, director of Westgate Recreational Center,” said Grazier.

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