New Castle News

Mitchel Olszak

October 1, 2012

Mitchel Olszak: The greening of New Castle gets under way

NEW CASTLE — Efforts to improve the appearance of New Castle in multiple ways are beginning to take shape.

The second meeting of the clean and green committee, established by New Visions for Lawrence County, was held last week to discuss the group’s direction.

New Visions is a local volunteer effort seeking to enhance the quality of life in the community in a variety of ways. While the endeavor intends to have an impact on all of Lawrence County, its preliminary plans are geared toward New Castle. Although different groups have been established to tackle various concerns, I have been following the activities of clean and green advocates.

As you might guess, last week’s brainstorming session with a couple dozen individuals went off in a variety of directions.

But by the end of the evening, four key goals for the group were outlined for pursuit in the immediate future. Taken together, they are fairly ambitious and can make a measurable impact on the city.

Several participants at the meeting took responsibility for assorted projects. While the clean and green panel is continuing to meet, much of the work will involve the efforts of individuals and smaller groups acting on an ongoing basis, rather than as part of a large gathering.

So where are these particular volunteers intending to direct their energies? Here are the projects:

1. Establishment of community gardens. This would involve identifying sites, finding groups that would take responsibility for the gardens and volunteers who would assist with the efforts.

2. A fire hydrant painting project. Rules are to be established for painting hydrants throughout the city in artistic ways. The goal is to enhance the appearance of New Castle while ensuring any changes do not impede the ability of firefighters to quickly locate the hydrants. The activity may evolve into contests.

3. Improving the appearance of the city’s gateways. Basically, this may consist of new signage and cleanups along the major roads leading into New Castle.

4. A cleanup of Gaston Park.

This final project is on the fast track, with an Oct. 27 date planned to coincide with Make a Difference Day. In less than a month, specific tasks must be determined, volunteers must be recruited and all the little details that go into making a major community initiative a success must be put into place.

Can it be done? Of course. I’ve seen it happen before.

There is, however, a larger question: Can it be sustained? And by this, I don’t just mean the activities of New Visions, but also the essential support of the larger community.

Any success New Visions enjoys ultimately will be tied to public reaction to the organization’s efforts and the ability to have neighborhoods buy into the concept. To put it simply, conducting a special cleanup of a park, or a neighborhood, is a relatively straightforward process. But turning that endeavor into a long-term success — where there is a commitment to keeping the area clean — requires community support from both citizens and city government.

A few volunteers, no matter their determination, will burn themselves out if their efforts to improve the community fail to receive broader acceptance. Ideally, New Visions’ beautification initiatives will be embraced by residents who not only appreciate a helping hand, but also recognize that it’s in their interests to work with others to strengthen the community on a long-term basis.

New Visions faces a long and challenging road. But the first steps have been taken in the goal of creating a brighter future for New Castle.

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Mitchel Olszak
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