Downtown Nevada City’s gateway park looks a little brighter these days, thanks to the efforts of a few volunteers.
“It is amazing how many people come out of the woodwork to help,” said Mayor Duane Strawser.
“This is the foundation of the community. The towns that don’t have that foundation of volunteerism fall apart.”
On Sunday morning, Aero Acton, owner of Leaf It To Me, a Nevada City tree trimming business, will be on hand to prune the more than 100-foot tall Coast Redwood at the center of Calanan Park on the corner of Broad and Union streets.
“It has some dead branches hanging in it and what is more obvious is some of them are broken and hanging,” Acton said. “It’s probably been decades since it was attended to.”
Acton is one of a handful of unseen Nevada City volunteers filling in to beautify the city where its cash-strapped government cannot.
“I don’t have any time to go buy more plants and plant them. Buying them affects my budget, but maintaining them takes time we don’t have,” said Verne Taylor, director of Nevada City’s public works, told The Union in a previous interview.
With a 2012-2013 budget of $166,385, Taylor has four employees who do everything from manage the city’s water treatment plant and sewers to paving roads.
“Hopefully with Measure L passing, I will be able to refund a sixth position we had vacated in 2008 that we never refilled,” said Taylor, who Acton said has worked with the volunteers on his own time.
Funding that position is among the considerations listed on the city’s website for the tax revenue, which went into effect Monday. A future community input meeting on those proposed expenditures is expected to be scheduled in the next couple of weeks.
Until then, volunteers will continue to attend to the park.
Calanan Park is named for George Calanan, a former Nevada City civic leader and businessman, according to the Nevada County Historical Landmarks Commission.
In 2009, a commission was formed to renovate the park, which was given a more than $100,000 estimate, said Councilman Robert Bergman, who headed that group.
“The idea is that Calanan is the visual entrance to town. We, as a committee, wanted to turn it into a more usable space,” he said. “It was just a funding problem.”
Bergman recalls when the park was filled by local pedestrians.
In recent years, it has not been uncommon to see the park occupied by transients.
“It hasn’t been as well-used by what some people would describe as the less desirable,” Bergman said.
But then, the city passed smoking bans, first in parks in 2009 and then citywide in 2011.
“The no-smoking has helped a lot,” Bergman said.
But so has Miriam Morris, who was honored with Dr. Leland & Sally Lewis Visual Arts Award at the 2012 Nevada City Chamber of Commerce installation dinner for her unsolicited volunteer work landscaping Robinson Plaza across the street from Calanan Park, where she subsequently turned her attention.
“I’m really impressed with her,” Taylor said. “She’s spending a couple thousand dollars out of her own pocket besides doing all the labor. She is just a fantastic volunteer. Somebody like her steps up and takes over a project and I hardly even see her. It is a huge benefit. We could use more people like Miriam.”
Along with people like Morris and Acton, contractor Gary Tintle has plans to restore the Alpha Building, which abuts the park’s west boundaries.
Those plans call for a grand entrance to a local market right through the park.
“It’s right on the corner and we want people to see it maintained,” Acton said. “That will help with the whole image of the park. We want it to be more inviting and friendly.”
Acton said he plans to be out at the park, up in the tree, for a handful of hours, beginning at 8 a.m. Sunday and will be aided by some volunteers.
“Unless the weather is bad,” he said. “But it looks like a slight chance of showers and that won’t stop us. As long as the weather is decent, we’ll be out there.”
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4236.