But more than the explosion of brightly-colored bouquets that greet residents and visitors, the city’s public works director said he appreciates the people who toil in the soil to keep each intersection looking vibrant.
“I like to drive down Main Street early in the morning and see all the people working in their flower beds — long before there’s any activity downtown,” Haney, the city’s public works director, said. “There’s a lot more work that goes into each intersection than I think most people realize.”
Though he is quick to deflect any credit for the beautification project, Haney’s efforts to help beautify downtown Ottawa did not go unnoticed by the former Topeka-based Kansas Main Street Association.
Haney was awarded the state association’s Community Image Award during its Awards of Excellence banquet Oct. 18 in Emporia. The banquet capped off the last official event sponsored by the state association after the Kansas Department of Commerce shuttered the organization Sept. 20 in an effort to meet tightened budget constraints, Becci Shisler, Ottawa Main Street Association program director, said. Shisler nominated Haney for the award on behalf of the Ottawa Main Street Association and its design committee.
“Over the past few years, Ottawa Main Street has been aggressive in developing programs and projects that can be used in making sure the downtown arena is a safe, beautiful and enjoyable place to shop and eat,” Shisler said. “With the help of the city and Mr. Haney, the benches have been replaced. The old benches are being refurbished and will also be set at various locations downtown for [residents’] enjoyment. The corners have been adopted and replanted for the beautification of our citizens.”
The Community Image Award is given in recognition of individuals and businesses that have made an outstanding contribution to a local Main Street program, the state Main Street Association said in a news release.
“Andy was nominated by the local program because of his support and dedication of the beautification of our downtown streets,” Shisler continued. “He has helped as a liaison between the Main Street program and the city in making things happen. We, as a program, want to thank him for his support and help in the projects we endeavor, and nominating him for the award was the right thing to do.”
“[Ottawa Main Street] had people within their organization that were far more deserving of this award,” Haney, who recently replaced 11 benches downtown, said. “When they came to me with the idea of beautifying the corners, all I did was say, ‘Yes.’”
But Shisler and retired Ottawa architect Bob Marsh, who was chairman of the association’s design committee when the beautification program began in 2010, said Haney has been invaluable in helping orchestrate the initiative.
Shisler cited how on one occasion, when the effort first began in fall 2010, Haney purchased dozens of rose bushes from Loma Vista Nursery and brought them back to the volunteers.
“I probably bought every rose they had,” a smiling Haney said.
He credited Loma Vista Nursery, with locations in Ottawa and the surrounding area, for selling the roses to the city at wholesale costs, rather than retail prices.
And Marsh pointed out Walmart Supercenter in Ottawa discounted the price of its mulch for volunteers to use in the flower beds. Marsh and Shisler also said representatives with the local agriculture extension office — Kansas State University’s Frontier District No. 11, which serves Franklin and Osage counties — offered planting and gardening tips to volunteers.
“We have about $2,500 in the budget to put into this [downtown beautification effort],” Haney said Tuesday, as he stood at the corner of Second and Main streets in front of Edward E. Haley Park. “That is not close to the amount of money that has probably been invested in this corner alone. A lot of the expense comes out of these volunteers’ pockets.”
In addition to financial constraints, Haney said the volunteer program is invaluable because the public works staff doesn’t have the manpower to maintain the flower beds that have sprung up on every corner.
“It used to be the only water these corners got was when it rained,” Haney said, half jokingly. “It takes someone here to turn on the water — but it goes well beyond watering the flowers.”
Marsh nodded in agreement as he stood with Haney at the southeast corner of Second and Main — the corner Marsh first attended when the program began two years ago.
With 18 corners to care for, Marsh said, volunteers have to work in the flower beds regularly to keep them looking good.
“It isn’t just watering — it’s pulling weeds, changing out flowers, ‘dead-heading,’ picking up trash — it takes a lot of dedication,” Marsh said of volunteers’ work.
He and Shisler credited longtime volunteers Marie Seneca, Jane Creighton and others with spending a considerable number of hours tending to the flowers and shrubs.
Marsh and Shisler said the beautification initiative came out of an Ottawa Main Street Association-sponsored public forum in February 2010. At the end of the meeting, attendees indicated what improvement projects should take top priority by placing dot stickers next to a list of possible projects tacked on the wall.
“The downtown beautification project was the overwhelming top vote-getter,” Shisler said.
With the initiative now picking up steam, Haney said, he was approached by the association’s design committee chairman Marsh and others about beautifying the corners, which at that point consisted of mostly shrubs and a limited number of flowers.
“I call Marsh the instigator, and I say that in a good way,” Haney said. “Basically, I told them to go ahead, and I got out of the way.”
The end result were corners lined with about every type of flower imaginable, from petunias to roses.
“One of the things I like is that every corner is different,” Haney said. “Every volunteer has made their corner look unique.”
Shisler said seven of the 18 corners currently are not spoken for.
“Other volunteers have been tending to those corners,” Shisler said. “We could use some other volunteers.”
To volunteer to tend a downtown flower bed, call Shisler at the Ottawa Main Street Association’s office, (785) 242-2085.
The downtown beautification effort speaks to how important volunteers are to the city, Haney said.
“I think the level of volunteerism that has gone into this beautification effort says a lot about this community,“ he said.
Doug Carder is senior writer at The Herald. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org