Following input from the downtown merchants that the appearance of downtown had to be improved before encouraging tours, events or economic Development, we have:
The Chamber, Pulaski Tomorrow and Youth Leadership did a downtown clean up in June.
The City, Archway and the Women’s Prison- developed a plan to get the existing prison detail more involved in the upkeep and maintenance of the Commerce Street area, including the eight irrigated flower beds and Cabero Park.
The City and Archway have engaged the Master Gardeners of Central Ga to help us by telling us how best to landscape downtown and develop a sustainability plan for the future. They will also be assisting us with a design to make Cabero Park more usable and attractive. This is a current ongoing project.
The Women’s Prison Detail has cleaned out the beds and with the help of the City of Hawkinsville public works department and removed everything that the Master Gardeners said we had managed to kill. This is also in accordance with gardening practices where fall would be a time to prepare for planting. Much of the soil had no nutrients and irrigation systems needed maintained. Dead plants and trees have been removed.
In June of this year, Pulaski Tomorrow Class of 2015 raised over $2,600 for waste receptacles for downtown (I think some of the money is going to signage though). About a month ago, they agreed to purchase 6 containers. Ginger Lancaster is coordinating to get a status update on the order.
The Hawkinsville Garden Club contributed $1,000 in September (to the Downtown Development Authority) for the purchase of supplies and materials for the Women’s Prison Detail to purchase gardening tools and plants, etc.
In February, the new Master Gardener classes begin in Central Georgia. A component of the program is dedicated community service to one’s home county. The City of Hawkinsville has agreed that the City could fund the tuition for 4 or 5 local people ($195 each) to go through the program. These individuals would then use their community service hours to train and assist the women’s prison detail on the Commerce street project. This will provide sustainability for the project and valuable job skills training for the women that will improve their outlook upon release.
Also, we applied for (City, Chamber) but did not receive a TPD grant to restore the Way and Way mural and create 2 more. We could reapply next year.
So, yes, as people have indicated, the downtown area needs improvement, but the improvements ARE UNDER WAY. The city has limited resources and often we have to neglect one area in order to work on other areas. Each year we change the areas that we are focusing on (again, due to limited resources). But we ARE focusing currently on improving the looks of our downtown area.
Finally, a Meeting Worth Attending….
I have to attend many meetings. Most of them are a waste of time. I just attended a meeting of a group trying to form a DMA (Downtown Merchants Association). THIS meeting was great! The energy and the momentum were obvious.
The meeting was lead by our Archway Professional, Michelle Elliott . The group is trying to do whatever it can to rejuvenate our downtown area. They are looking at Window decorations in the abandoned buildings, cleaning up the streets, repainting and adding new murals to the downtown area, adding trash receptacles and also exploring options to help beef up the Hawkinsville River Market. Donna Rickerson, our new Hawkinsville Chamber executive Director was introduced and she had lots of great ideas.
While it is still early in the process, I am excited that 20+ people care enough to meet and discuss. The City of Hawkinsville was well represented by our city manager, Tim Young . ComSouth was there, local merchants were there, the Garden Club was there, the new owners of the Butterfly Mansion B&B were there, representatives from our DDA, and Rivers Alive were there as well as simply concerned citizens.
We have lots of work to do, but it is so encouraging when a group like this gets together, not to bash what is not happening, not to wish would should be happening, but to PLAN what CAN Happen.
Let’s all support those that are trying.