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California City Solutions: City of Weed Volunteers Bring Charm Back to Main Street, Future Is Bright

October 3, 2014
This story is part of an ongoing series featuring Helen Putnam Award entries.
 
The 2014 entries will be added soon on the League’s website as a resource for cities in a searchable database called California City Solutions. Weed Pride was submitted in 2014 for the Enhancing Public Trust, Ethics, and Community Involvement award category.
 
Four years ago, visitors to Weed may have described the town of 3,000 people located south of the California-Oregon border as close-knit and rich in history, but struggling.
 
“Downtown was originally developed in the earlier part of the 20th century and was starting to show its age,” Mayor Bob Hall said. “There were sidewalks falling apart, tree roots breaking up walkways and there was no street lighting, causing the main street area to be dark and undesirable.”
 
Residents took notice. In 2009, some began drumming up plans to beautify downtown.
 
The results are stunning — a $2 million project pulled off for about $400,000 — but no easy accomplishment.
 
It began with Weed Pride, a volunteer group, which took on the task of obtaining funding and creating a plan to refresh to look of Weed's Main Street.
 
Their ideas were ambitious and the challenges many. Weed Pride volunteers were willing to contribute the manpower, but needed funds for materials. Asking Main Street businesses to contribute to the project wasn’t an option — they were doing their best just to stay afloat.
 
But volunteers and city officials were determined. Spearheaded by city council members, they cobbled together Proposition 1B disbursements, Transient Occupancy Taxes, and a large grant.
 
The Main Street Project planning began, with designing, planning approval, obtaining funds and organizing community volunteers. A core group of community members met weekly, creating a timeline to prioritize projects and establishing subcommittees to divvy up the various tasks.
 
Weed Pride volunteers combined efforts with the city’s public works department to establish an action plan. There were challenges as the partnership struggled to sort out responsibilities and establish lines of communication, but eventually they found their rhythm.
 
The city’s crew began by demolishing curbs and gutters, while Weed Pride volunteers excavated and leveled the soil and dug trenches for the street lighting conduit to be laid. Volunteers removed large trees because of damage from shallow roots and planted new trees deeper, accompanied by a deeper watering system. A subcommittee calling themselves “Let’s Paint the Town” purchased discounted paint to freshen the project path.
 
After completing the prep work, volunteers placed the first paver in 2010.
 
Weed Pride volunteers, most of them retirees, contributed the bulk of the physical labor during the three-year project. These volunteers faced a steep learning curve — they relayed the first hundred feet of pavers three times. They did everything from drive Bobcat tractors, excavating and trenching to installing irrigation systems, erecting lights and installing wiring.
 
Weed Pride worked closely with the Weed Chamber of Commerce, Weed Revitalization Committee and Siskiyou Training Employment Program. Several businesses donated goods and services, while members of other organizations — including community college fire academy cadets, high school sports teams, off-duty CalFire employees, and Rotary members — made contributions as well.
 
Connections were made and old relationships renewed as volunteers and city crews worked besides each other toward a common goal: community pride and beautification.
 
What was once a depressed, rundown area, dark by dusk, is now lit by streetlights.
 
“It’s pretty!” Hall said. “We have a tan brick throughout Main Street area and it looks real pretty.”
 
The project, completed by volunteers and funded by Weed Pride efforts, included:
  • More than 120 volunteers
  • 2,300 linear feet of curbs and gutters replaced along both sides of Main Street
  • Four stained stamped concrete crosswalks
  • Ten new ADA compliant corners
  • Approximately 20,000 square feet of pavers laid
  • Fourteen mature trees removed and new donated trees planted with new irrigation
  • 2,400 feet of trenching for installed wiring
  • Twenty-one new street lights
  • Nine new pedestrian lights
  • Twenty-seven concrete footings poured for light standards, clock base and drinking fountain
  • Two storefronts, two benches and one park gazebo painted
  • A 40 year old tree transported and replanted
  • A half ton of polymer sand applied to seal and lock pavers
  • Fourteen iron tree grates designed and installed
  • A vintage town clock installed (donated by a local business)
  • Two painted wrought iron benches funded by a regional art grant
  • 145 feet of wrought iron fence bordering a downtown creek
  • One custom drinking fountain in progress
Weed Pride and city crew bonds were tested again recently, switching from planning to support mode.
 
On Sept. 15, the fast-moving Boles wildfire fueled by 40 mph winds whipped through Weed. Although Weed’s Main Street Project and revitalization is still standing, the blaze destroyed or damaged more than 150 structures.
 
Volunteers have turned their efforts toward rebuilding the other parts of their community, but they have more plans for an empty lot downtown. They’re raising money for what they will call Heritage Plaza, a place to honor and showcase the diverse and ethnic population drawn to Weed by the lumber industry. The plaza will host live concerts and incorporate project materials that will honor local family heritage.
 
In July, a group of bicyclists from Bicycle Rides Northwest peddled into Weed and quickly fell in love with the community. The bicycle group has contributed to Weed Pride fundraisers, and members are planning to return to the city on future rides.
 
Donna Winger organizes email messages for Weed Pride, maintains its Facebook page and acts as both its spokesperson and treasurer. She shared the secret to Weed Pride’s success:
 
“We have perseverance. We have a shared vision and we’re dedicated,” Winger said. “We are always going forward on our vision.”


 
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