A word about comments

Several people have emailed me recently regarding their inability to leave a comment on this site. Unfortunately we had to turn off the comment feature because of a sustained and overwhelming attack of spam comments from people selling electronic cigarettes, reverse look-up services, counterfeit Victoria’s Secret clothing and many, many things I could not tell you about because not only were they not in English, they were not written using the Roman alphabet either.

There were more than 20,000 of these bogus comments in the past few months. I won’t bore you with why this is bad, but I also know a blog where you can’t comment is pretty lame. The plan is to wait another week or so and then turn comments back on and hope that by then the spam bots will have moved on.

We posted a gregg’s garden story today on Warren Expressed which you can reach using this link.

How the Trib got it wrong

The Tribune has been a big supporter of gregg’s gardens from the beginning, and continued that support with a very nice editorial last week. That said, we think they missed the point slightly.

This may have been our fault since they recently gave us a generous amount of their time to explain our plans. But we want to be sure that we clarify our point-of-view here.

The Trib expressed doubt that a large concentration of gregg’s gardens would become a tourist attraction and they probably should be skeptical of that concept, which may be a bit far-fetched. But that is not the primary goal of creating a Garden District in Warren.

We believe that by demolishing 50+ of the worst houses in the area, which the city will do this year, and replacing them with wildflower and native plant gardens, combined with converting 50+ existing vacant lots to gardens as well, that we will:

  1. Stabilize the neighborhood and make it more attractive for potential investors, especially anyone interested in purchasing an inexpensive home that needs a little work
  2. Give Warren something new and positive that residents can be proud of by branding this new neighborhood the Garden District, which will further encourage investment in that neighborhood
  3. Cast a positive glow on downtown, the Historic Perkins Neighborhood, the industrial zone just to the north and the Warren G. Harding area to the northeast — all neighborhoods immediately adjacent to the proposed Garden District.

Now, we still believe that 100-150 wildflower gardens concentrated in a 25 square block area will attract visitors, but if nary a single person ever comes from out-of-town to visit the Garden District, but it achieves the goals above, it will have paid for itself many times over. Remember, the budget for this entire project is only $50,000 — less than the cost of most single family homes in Warren.

To view a YouTube video on the Garden District idea click here.

The case for creating a Garden District

gg_1As you may know, Phase II for gregg’s gardens is a plan to create a Garden District just northeast of downtown Warren. We laid out this plan at a recent public meeting at the Wean Foundation building and since then have been showing it to selected small groups. Well, now the whole world can see the pitch thanks to our friend Jim Fogarty, a member of the Wild Bunch and owner of the “2TicksAndtheDog” marketing agency. Jim had me come in and record the voice-over and then married the track with some music and our slides.

You can see the results at this link to YouTube. This 16 minute presentation lays out the argument for using a concentration of wildflower and native plant gardens as a means of transforming one neighborhood, which because of its strategic location, will have a strong positive impact on three or four other neighborhoods.

The Garden District will only become a reality if we are able to raise the funding for it, so I urge you to contribute and to send a link to the video to as many friends, family, colleagues and assorted people you know. The details are on the closing slide.

If 1000 people each contribute $50 the Garden District will become a reality.

Great news!

thermometer fundsOur quest to expand gregg’s gardens into a full-blown Garden District in 2013 received a big boost this week when the Wean Foundation informed us that we are to receive a $5000 grant towards our efforts. There isn’t much more I can tell you about the grant at this point; we will be attending an orientation meeting next week where we will learn the details.

Our 2013 fund-raising goal is $50,000, so with this generous gift the Wean Foundation has moved us 10% of the way there. I can assure you all that “thank you” notes are in the mail.

*   *   *

I know I said that I would post the details of our Phase II plans this week, but I decided to hold off for another week as we will soon have a pretty cool mixed-media file we can share. I think you’ll find it more entertaining than a plain old post, so hang in there a few more days.

But first a little history…

As we begin to focus on Phase II of gregg’s gardens I thought it would be useful to recap what has been accomplished so far.  On Wednesday I’ll lay-out the details and rationale for Phase II.

*  *  *

In the fall of 2011 a group of people brought together by their love for a friend and for the city that they call home, came together as volunteers to create gregg’s gardens. The project would memorialize their friend Gregg Snyder, who had been tragically killed while bicycling and help revitalize Warren.

The plan was simple. The volunteers would raise money to turn as many as possible of Warren’s hundreds of vacant lots into beautiful wildflower and native plant gardens. They used a sponsorship model in which individuals and groups would sponsor specific lots and receive recognition on a site marker and on greggsgardens.org.

Most of the lots were placed into the program by the Trumbull County Land Bank, which retained ownership of them.  At their suggestion 20 vacant lots on Atlantic Street, a major east-west thoroughfare, were targeted for Phase I of the project.

From January through June of 2012 the volunteers raised more than $20,000 – enough for all 20 garden conversions on Atlantic Street plus an additional two lots on Youngstown Road.

More than 200 people donated and about 2/3 of the donations and half the money came from former Warren residents who retain a love and commitment to their hometown. For example, the Warren Harding Panther graduating class of 1967 raised more than $3000; the Harding classes of 1968 and 1969 chipped in another $2000. More than $1000 came in small donations online.

Local residents Norma and Tony Napolet gave permission to plant a showcase “Alumni Garden” on their property at the corner of Elm and Atlantic across the street from Warren G. Harding High School, and the three graduating classes funded the plantings. Another anonymous Harding alumnus donated the funds for a bench for the site which will be installed this spring.

Friends of Gregg Snyder and his brother Matt Reece contributed another $3000 and Warren businessman Frank Nannacola granted permission to plant another garden on a large lot he owns on the south side of Youngstown Road between East Avenue and Homewood. Gregg’s many friends are developing plans for additional improvements to that garden, and given their artistic backgrounds it is sure to become a Warren landmark.

The families of Garrett Wonders, Frank Poulos and Earl Blank each funded gardens in memory of them. The teammates of Don Campbell and Bill Schumacher funded a large garden across the street from Molenkopf Stadium where they once played. Anonymous donors created a garden for Tip, Jack, Nellie and Marty.

Local business and civic groups were also very generous. Gardens were created by AAUW, All American Cards and Comics, AVI Foodsystems, Country at the Amp, Diane Sauer Chevrolet, Carl W. Hall Funeral Services, Rotary Club, The Trumbull 100, Horse Shoe Bar, Vlad Pediatrics, the Hiram College Alumni of Warren and the Wean Foundation.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing. For example we underestimated how hard it would be to kill the weeds, but once again, someone stepped up to help with a $2500 anonymous donation and the weeds got killed.

We received excellent cooperation and help from local government. Mayor Doug Franklin made a YouTube video encouraging people to donate to gregg’s gardens and helped us with several logistical issues. Trumbull County Treasurer Sam Lamancusa, who also runs the Land Bank, provided the lots and furnished equipment including a used van to TNP that was necessary for garden maintenance.

Warren Municipal Judges Gysegem and Ivanchak worked with Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership to direct community service clients to provide the manpower for the maintenance. TNP was indispensable to gregg’s gardens; they provided maintenance, accounting and planning, plus it is their non-profit status that allows donations to be tax-deductible.

And then there are the volunteers; your friends and neighbors who stepped up and did the work it took to bring all these people and activities together and keep them channeled in the same direction. I call them The Wild Bunch. There are too many of them to name them all in this post but without them there would be no gregg’s gardens.

Join the party

415085-party-time--vectorWell, it’s a virtual party and it’s called Let’s Build a Garden District in Warren. It’s actually a Facebook page where you can see and talk to the other people who are supporting the effort.

If you’d like to support the effort but aren’t a Facebook playa you can donate by sending a check to: Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership 147 West Market Street Warren OH 44481 or via PayPal from the TNP site.