Area residents, business owners contribute to beautification effort of downtown Niles

NILES – Many of the flower beds in downtown Niles got some overdue attention thanks to a small group of local volunteers.

Monday marked the first day of four that a group of volunteers planned to get their hands dirty by weeding the flower beds. New plants and mulch to beautify the downtown area was planned for the following days.

Some of the beds are maintained by the downtown businesses they sit in front of. Others left neglected, will get new plants after the beds are prepared.

On May 18, Sheryl McKeel and Vicki Jurgonski posted on Facebook calling for volunteers and donations.

“Are you as tired of seeing a run down Main Street in Niles as we are? Now is our chance to make a positive difference in the appearance of downtown Niles,” McKeel’s post said.

The post went on to say that a committee, not associated with the Niles Downtown Development Authority, had been formed “to weed and beautify” the planter boxes.

“You can complain all you want about a situation, and the way it looks, but then you have to do something about it,” Jurgonski said. “We were kind of just tired of how the downtown was being maintained, so we said ‘let’s do something about it.’”

On Sunday, the Niles Fire Department came through and watered the planters to make weed pulling easier for the volunteers. By Monday morning, local businesses and residents joined forces.

Matt Mazingo, co-owner of two downtown businesses on E. Main Street including Trap House 24 SLR and SLR Pilates, was out helping the effort. His concern was the city’s maintenance plan.

“[The city] works so hard to get a grant, but they don’t look at what it costs to maintain it,” Mazingo said. “It takes maintenance to do it.”

In a group of realtors working together, Devon Floor said he was motivated to beautify the downtown’s flower beds previous to finding out who was leading the effort.
“When I saw someone else was taking the lead, I said I would join them,” Floor said. “Being a realtor, your pride is the community. You care about what people think about it and what it looks like.”

Timothy O’Toole, a Niles resident, has been seen around downtown tending to the flower beds as he volunteers. On Monday, he joined the larger effort to pull the weeds in preparation for the flowers that will be planted.

Lisa Croteau, director of marketing and administration for the Niles Downtown Development Authority, was downtown Monday morning.

“I think it’s phenomenal. It’s the way communities work. They get involved and they tackle [tasks]. I am very grateful that they saw a need,” Croteau said.

She said that Jurgonski had been very passionate about the project, and several of the businesses had stepped up to work on their flower beds.

“I’m thrilled a group wanted to get involved and make this happen,” she said.

Croteau said M.A.A.C. Properties got the irrigation system throughout the flower beds running again on Monday. Volunteers will be working on the flower beds throughout the week, with plans to plant on Thursday.

By Monday afternoon, McKeel thanked volunteers and downtown businesses who were pitching in.

“Our goal is to have downtown looking wonderful for the Memorial Day Parade,” her post said.

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