DDA wages war on weeds

Published 12:42pm Friday, July 13, 2012

Jim Scarpone is a certified public accountant and financial planner, not a botanist, but you wouldn’t know it when he gushes about the blooming downtown Niles streetscape.

Daily Star photo/JOHN EBY Previous summers Heather Croteau worked at Riverfront Café. This summer she’s filling a wheelbarrow with weeds she pulls as part of a pilot project 20 hours a week to keep downtown Niles tidy. “It’s a never-ending job,” said Heather, 23. She will be a graduate student in sustainable systems at the University of Michigan. Next summer she expects to be working in environmental law and policy.

“The streetscape is fabulous. MAAP Property Services has done a tremendous job in terms of the flowers — particularly with the drought. Those flowers have never looked nicer.”

Problem is, weeds flourish alongside those flowers and detract from the tableau.

“Niles is inherently a beautiful town,” Scarpone said Friday. “When weeds come up through the sidewalks and into the streets, it totally detracts. This summer weeds are even more noticeable” with other vegetation scorched.

“We’re all very well aware of the budget cuts,” he said, “but we can be clean and poor at the same time. We (the Downtown Development Authority) got some funding from private sources. (City employee) Kim Hocker has done a great job spraying weeds, but then sidewalks are littered with brown things instead of green things. That’s where Lisa’s daughter (Heather Croteau) came in. The community doesn’t know how much her family and a couple of other volunteers have been cleaning up downtown for years.” Since fourth grade, Heather said.

Feedback for the DDA’s independent contractor paid for 20 hours a week with funds donated from a private source “has been incredibly positive,” Scarpone said. “The downtown, despite the heavy amount of traffic it’s had this summer, is well-maintained. We’ve been so pleased with the impact, we started spraying weeds in the alleys. One of people’s first impressions of a town is whether it’s clean or dirty. I get to work at 7 a.m. and Heather is already on the job. I sure hope it continues next summer. It made a tremendous difference, so my goal would be to build on it and employ two local kids. I financed my college education mowing lawns 35 years ago.”

“There have never been more downtown activities that I can remember,” Scarpone said. “With all the traffic, you want it like a Notre Dame football game. On Saturday, debris accumulates from tailgates, but it’s immaculate by Sunday. Weeds come back in a few weeks if you don’t stay on top of them.”

  • Justine

    I wonder what is being sprayed on the weeds? My guess is round-up chemical herbicide. Did you know that boiling water will do just as well? But seeing as how you can’t walk around town with a tea kettle, you can also use a mix of ammonia and water, OR bleach and water. FYI

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