Beautification Committee Celebrates Bike Rack and Bright Spots
After running two community involvement events that doubled as successful fundraisers, Rocky River Beautification Committee members had a pleasant challenge: What could they do as a pure "give back" project to their community?
Answer: A bike rack.
After talking to city officials and staff about a myriad of options, the ultimate decision was inspired by a letter written last summer by Eric Ulchaker. As part of a middle school project, Eric had written a letter to Mayor Pamela Bobst suggesting that the city should have more bike racks. The concept of an item that could be used by people ages five to 95 years old (or more!) was too good to pass up.
What resulted surprised everyone, including the subcommittee leader, Gail Liggett. Instead of choosing a cookie-cutter bike rack from a catalog, the group opted to research and design a custom rack. “We wanted something that would visually improve the Civic Center’s entrance and the catalog choices just weren’t enough fun.” The location influenced the choice of a sporty theme, but they were looking for something distinctive, beyond typical sports like basketball, tennis, swimming, etc. The group started talking about Rocky River’s history and imagined croquet games played near the lake by ladies in long white dresses. A pretty picture, if a little hot.
Once the theme - croquet - was chosen, the group started researching bike rack specifications, for both material and use. A few avid bikers in the group provided hands-on experience, but input was also gleaned from local professionals. Marty Cader, City Planning Commission in Cleveland; Bryan Mauk, Director of Social Enterprise at Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries; Alex Pesta, City Architecture; and Richard Wong, Director of Planning and Development in Cleveland Heights were among local sources that provided knowledge about bikers’ needs and technical expertise.
Functionality was a prime considerations during development, so that many people would find the finished product easy to use. Gail noted, “We didn’t want something ‘pretty’ that was difficult to use or wouldn’t hold the necessary number of bikes.” The new rack accommodates 16 bicycles, which was deemed appropriate for that location by Rocky River officials. There was also considerable discussion about placement at the site. We wanted to make sure that walkways would not be obstructed even if people brought their youngest children in bike trailers.
A Request for Proposals was published in January and eventually Dero, Inc. in Minneapolis was chosen to fabricate the rack. Its national reputation and previous experience with similar racks were key to the decision. For example, the company recommended against double-powder coating to get the rack's stripes. “We were novices and thought it would be simple, but Dero knew that it could lead to cracking and long-term problems. It would have been easy for them to follow our request and say ‘Just following orders’ when problems arose, but they didn’t. Dero was a true partner.”
The next step was coordinating installation and figuring out the distinctive striping. For these, local expertise was crucial. F. Buddie Contracting installed the rack and Bob Barker, a Rocky River sign painter with considerable commercial experience, added the colorful striping by hand.
Everything was done just in time for River Days. Mayor Bobst, Eric Ulchaker and members of the subcommittee were on hand to cut the ribbon. “This shows the power of ideas and the influence an individual 13 year old can have. We were thrilled that Eric could join us and show the kids in the audience that they don’t have to be ‘old’ to join the public conversation. And hopefully some of them will be motivated to join a volunteer group in the future!” said Gail.
Following the ribbon cutting, Rocky River Early Childhood PTA raffled off three children’s bicycles donated by the Beautification Committee and the Rocky River Police Department. Winners Rocco Coale, Henry Seasly and Addy McGee were delighted with their new rides.
The bikes donated by the Beautification Committee and the entire bike rack project were financed from the Perennial Plant Sale and luminaria sales for Light Up River. Gail notes that the group was delighted to provide the city with a piece of functional art, without impacting the city’s budget or using taxpayer funds.
Bright Spots Revealed
The Committee also revealed this year’s Bright Spots at River Days, recognizing homeowners for taking the extra time and effort to enhance their property with quality maintenance and landscaping. “The program’s focus is on curb appeal. There are many spectacular sideyards and backyards, but we do not venture onto private property when we are choosing recipients,” said Nancy Sharbaugh, Co-Chair of the Bright Spot program.
Broad geographic distribution is very important to the program. “We want people to discover well-groomed and lovely properties in neighborhoods throughout Rocky River,” said Cindy Bacon, Nancy’s co-chair for the program. “We hope people will use the list to tour and discover the diversity of our city.”
Beautification Committee members have heard on many occasions that a Bright Spot has encouraged others in the neighborhood to put a little extra effort into their own yards. That is particularly gratifying, because after the primary objective of recognizing the Bright Spot recipient, the secondary goal is motivating the rest of the community. It could be as simple as tending a few annuals for the summer or taking the time to edge the lawn after mowing. Each effort reaps community rewards.
If you spy a residence that you think could be a Bright Spot, it may have been one already. The program started in 2011 and the Beautification Committee has recognized over 100 residences and public spots, including 33 this year. Previous Bright Spot recipients are eligible for recognition again in five years. A call goes out each spring and everyone is encouraged to submit nominations for the eligible category. The Ward Teams review the nominations and identify recipients.
Other than Rose Point, the sole public Bright Spot this year, the program was limited to single family homes due to finite volunteer resources. The group is actively looking for new members, which will allow it to take on larger projects and expand the Bright Spot program.
The Committee will hold a potluck dinner at Rocky River Park on August 7 to celebrate its recent success. Residents are invited to bring a dish to share and learn more about the Committee’s activities.
The Rocky River Beautification Committee’s mission is focused on projects and recreational activities that foster community involvement to improve the appearance of the city. The Committee strives to enhance the quality of life in Rocky River. Find more information about the group’s activities at rrcity.com/beautification_committee.html.
Liz Harmath is the Chair of the Rocky River Beautification Committee.