History Gallery

The Athens News Thursday, April 17, 2014

Group Celebrates 3 Blooming Decades
By Fred Kight
Athens News Writer

With spring comes thoughts of flowers, and in Athens, nothing says flowers like Project Plant. which is marking its 30th anniversary of making the city look beautiful.

Alvi McWlliams and five other women started Protect Plant in 1984. McWilliams and two others are still active with the group.

“The mission was to improve the economic and civic vitality of Athens through civic gardens in the central business district and at city entries,” McWilliams said.

The first project was utility-pole flower baskets. According to McWilliams, most of the baskets were placed downtown “where, by 1984, a series of fires had left Court Street scarred by three large empty lots, poorly masked by graffiti-tagged fences."

With grants from the O'Bleness and Athens Foundations, Project Plant commissioned the baskets from an industrial technology class at Athens High School.

“We had the baskets planted by Beacon School students doing greenhouse training. and an Atco worker began the summer maintenance.“ McWilliams said.

Years later, when the utility poles were replaced, the baskets were retired because they were too large for the new poles.

“We also started gardens at city entries and city park entries." McWilliams said. “Today, we continue to garden six sites and maintain a seventh."

The "flagship garden" is on the East State Street traffic island near Bob Evans Restaurant. live or the other gardens are at the local Visitors Center and the Athens Public Library.

Project Plant now has two contractors: Mason chambers Five Springs Farm and Nursery, and Michelle Douglas of Flne Lawn Care. They plant flowers and do the seasonal maintenance of lhe traffic-island garden sites.

"All this work, including paying the contractors, comes from generous contributions by Athens citizens, plus support from the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the city of Athens," McWilliams said.

“Athens citizens have been the biggest source or our funding over the years."

The non-profit group has “about a dozen“ active members who plant, weed and water the gardens.

“I've been very lucky to be involved with Project Plant over the years," said Terry Swank, one of the group's volunteers. “Project Planters are a great group of people that love Athens and want to make Athens a great place to live and visit."

Another “planter” is Naomi Stork, who got involved after seeing workers at one of the traffic islands.

“I remember thinking how fun that looked." Stork said. “So after my retirement in 2003, and with the encouragement of my husband, l called Alvi. That was one of lhe best calls I've made since retirerment!”

Stork said Project Plant members were welcoming and she has learned a lot.

“Not only is this a great learning experience, but it is a rewarding one especially after the first spring blooms appear!" she said.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary, Project Plant is funding a bench along the bike path at East State Street, near a small parking lot, McWilliams said.

"There may also be a daffodil-planting project, but that is still under discussion," she said.

Like to help us?

You can join in the gardening that helps make Athens such a remarkable place
by sending a tax deductible contribution to:

Project Plant, P. O. Box 5676, Athens OH 45701.

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