SUPERIOR — The Scenery and Home Landscape pilot program is taking root in four yards in the city.
Crews with Missinne Greenhouse and Landscaping descended on each of the homes selected. They dug; planted new trees and shrubs; sheered arborvitaes, hedges and vines; and laid mulch and river rock to create new landscapes in the front yards of homes along Tower and Catlin avenues and East Fifth Street.
The work was largely completed in a day, according to the homeowners.
“When they came in the morning, I took pictures, and when they left, I was like ohhh,” Julie Johnson said with a gasp. “It’s beautiful.”
Johnson’s home at 1315 E. Fifth St., was among the properties to receive the landscaping spruce up. She said the work has inspired her to continue with improvements to her home and yard. She’s even brought out stone elements of the gardens that made her yard beautiful in the past.
“It was a perfect choice on everything,” Johnson said. “I’m very happy with it … it makes the city pretty.”
Councilor Jenny Van Sickle worked with the Plan Commission to create the pilot program. The pilot allows for two grant cycles to improve landscaping at a minimum of three homes per cycle. In addition to landscape, the four homeowners selected this year will receive a visit from Missinne’s next year to help with maintenance of the new landscapes.
“The hope is that you start to see other improvements,” Mayor Jim Paine said. “That will be part of the story.”
Little programs like this, it just builds a little trust in the government that we’re not forgotten.
Tracy Siers, homeowner
Hayley McDonnell, who bought her first home at 1204 Catlin Ave. in March, said her boyfriend’s grandmother encouraged her to apply.
“I lost my mom a couple of years ago and didn’t have her around to help me, so I decided to go for it,” McDonnell said. She said she was shocked but excited to hear she was selected.
McDonnell was among 350 applicants to the program.
“This is an amazing opportunity,” McDonnell said. “It really did a lot for the curb appeal of my house. Especially young homeowners don’t know how to do that. They don’t know where to start. It was just very helpful, and Mary Missinne was just great. I wanted something that was easy to maintain, and she did exactly that.”
Jay and Ellen Kotera of 6304 Tower Ave. were thrilled to learn they were selected. Ellen Kotera said when the deadline to apply came and went, she and Jay just assumed they were not selected until they received a call a few weeks later from the city’s planning technician, Stephanie Becken.
“It seemed like an army of guys,” Kotera said. “They did the landscaping under the front window, which turned out just beautiful. We had the big maple tree that was here when we bought the place, and they gave it such a nice haircut.”
Missinne’s crew also pruned the Japanese lilac in their yard and planted three crab apple trees, replacing two that had to be removed about 10 years ago because of disease, Kotera said.
“At some point we’re going to have a complete exterior makeover,” she said. “We’re also having the exterior painted, and we’re hoping it will be done by fall,”
Kotera said the landscape program is a good one because it improves the look of the city, it encourages people to get outdoors and it improves the look and value of homes.
“I think it helps everyone in town in a small way,” Kotera said. “If it was permanent, look at how many people it would affect. It’s so positive.”
Van Sickle visited the homeowners to hear what they thought of the program. She said once the pilot program is complete, she may ask the council to make it a permanent program.
The $30,000 price tag for two rounds of grants and one year of maintenance over three years is significantly less expensive than the $200,000 the city invests in the small business grant program each year, she said.
Paine said the city invests in businesses and it only makes sense to invest in residents and their homes, which accounts for about 90% of properties in the city.
Tracy and Missy Siers of 1002 E. Fifth St. agree the program is an opportunity for the city to support homeowners.
“The city tends to focus on businesses and the commercial end of it,” Tracy Siers said. “You can’t forget the people … little programs like this, it just builds a little trust in the government that we’re not forgotten.”
It makes sense to have that community support in places where people live, Missy Siers said.
While the couple has been working on the landscape of their home prior to the program, being selected was an opportunity to clean up an overgrown landscape, add some layers to create a yard that will be pretty when it starts to grow in, Tracy Siers said.
“I like what they did,” Missy Siers said. “It’s not a jungle.”
Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org.