Spring cleaning is in the air | TheUnion.com

Spring cleaning is in the air

Anita Wald-Tuttle scrapes the old red paint off the old fire alarm box on Spring Street during last year's Nevada City cleanup.
John Hart/jhart@theunion.com | The Union

Armed with a bucket of soapy water and a sponge broom Tuesday morning, Patricia McLean, a retired Nevada Union High School teacher, scrubbed away at the corners and crevices of one of Nevada City’s more prominent buildings.

“You’re literally cleaning up city hall,” former Nevada City council member Reinette Senum hollered out to McLean as she drove by. “You’re doing a great job. This is looking fabulous.”

McLean was one of more than 50 volunteers who participated in the city’s first “Spring Madness” cleaning event, which began Tuesday morning.

“I feel very much like I’m part of the community,” said McLean. “This is my hometown and I want it to be healthy and thriving. I think it’s a very positive thing to do … Nevada City needs some TLC.”

According to Senum, local residents, merchants and city officials met regularly for three months to organize the logistics and acquire the resources to run the three-day cleaning effort.

The event became a collaboration between the city, local residents, community groups, and the city’s police and fire departments.

“We’d meet with the merchants and talk about the homeless situation and one of the things we started seeing more of was the graffiti,” said Senum. “We also noticed how areas within downtown were rundown … If you keep a town beautiful, it brings more people in, it makes people more respectful to the buildings and the parks, and so really it was a chance to have a fresh start … It’s also a great exercise in community.”

Along with the downtown area, volunteers and city workers are beautifying Pioneer and Penzance parks, and the Deer Creek areas by picking up litter, trimming overgrown vegetation, and repainting local bridges and buildings.

City staff have provided volunteers with equipment, which include ladders, paint, water hoses, weed choppers, and scrubbing and scraping tools.

Nevada City Director of Public Works Verne Taylor said the work provided by volunteers during the spring cleaning event is invaluable to the city.

“This is a huge benefit to me and my crew,” Taylor said. “We are in support of all of these people. We’ve got them tools and paint, and this is allowing me to get stuff done that we might not be able to do for six months, like painting the gaslight poles … I get a lot of volunteer help in this town, but this is amazing, this is saving me hundreds of hours of public works crew time.”

Police Chief Tim Foley said the effort to clean blighted areas helps prevent future property damage.

“There’s a theory called ‘the broken window theory,’” said Foley. “If you let one thing happen that’s negative, it automatically entices someone else to come forward and do something again that’s negative. One graffiti mark might lead to two or three or four. Cleaning it all up sets the tone that we’re a clean city, and we’re taking care of the small things. If you take care of the small things, the big things seem to fall into place sometimes.”

Officer Shane Franssen, who was helping scrape off cracked paint on the Spring Street sidewalks surrounding South Pine Cafe, said, “We have a good community that really supports the town. If people are out here helping clean up graffiti and they see somebody else doing that, they have a sense of ownership to say ‘Hey, I just painted that, don’t mess it up with graffiti or anything like that.’ So all the stuff we’re cleaning up, and the people that are doing it add to the sense of ownership with the town and makes people want to be more supportive.”

Laura Reed has lived in Nevada City for more than 35 years, and helped hose down the National Hotel.

“It’s stinky and it’s dirty and I think it’s time we all start giving out, and giving back, and hanging out with each other,” Reed said. “People used to stand out on the sidewalks and sweep and talk to their neighbors, so this is part of getting to know the people in the community that we live by, and see every day.”

Local downtown businesses, like Three Forks Bakery and Brewery, got in on the act Tuesday morning, hiring people to power wash the front seating area of their business, said Senum.

Sierra Nevada Group Membership Chair Richard Thomas will help oversee the Pioneer Park cleaning effort, which will trim unwanted vegetation surrounding the park, and clean up the children’s play area and amphitheater. Thomas said they also plan to paint a nearby shed and the park’s tennis court.

Helping Thomas in this three-day effort were students from the Eco NU Club, who are taking time out of their spring break to help improve the appearance of a park they frequent.

“I use the tennis courts and go on all the trails,” Raina Garfinkel, 17, said. “Today we picked up a lot of trash, it makes it look a lot better, and it makes it cleaner and nicer, so it will last longer.”

Other groups participating in the cleaning include the Nevada City Rotary Club, and the fire department, who will help with painting.

Janice O’Brien, president of Sierra Roots, a local homeless advocacy group, asked three homeless volunteers to contribute Tuesday by cutting down weeds and black berry bushes near a short bridge in Pioneer Park.

“They asked for our help and we’re here,” Billy Sanford said. “It feels good. They helped me, that’s why I’m here. It’s kind of like, you scratch my back and I scratch your back.”

The cleaning will continue today and tomorrow from 8 a.m. until noon each day, though volunteers will focus more on repairing and repainting storefronts, in addition to removing graffiti and painting curbs.

Senum said they will continue to work with the city on some ongoing restorations and building repairs beyond Thursday.

“We encourage anyone to show up to 412 Commercial Street, and be ready to paint, and be ready with their own equipment if they can,” said Senum. “They should come out and help … This is better than just complaining on Facebook.”

To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email inatividad@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.

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