Sprucing it up: Houghton Beautification Committee holds cleanup

Houghton Beautification Committee holds cleanup

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Michigan Tech Rotaract students Meredith Raasio, Madison Golde and Austin Jordan pose with some of the trash they collected with fellow student Ellie Wagner during Saturday’s city-wide cleanup organized by the Houghton Beautification Committee.

HOUGHTON — More than 40 volunteers spruced up sites throughout Houghton as part of the city Beautification Committee’s spring cleanup day.

Saturday’s cleanup built on a smaller one the beautification committee held last year. This year, the committee’s co-founder Julie Waara was approached by someone from Michigan Tech who had several groups of students looking for ways to help out.

“I think with our wonderful weather, it’s been more conducive, and we can actually see the gardens,” she said. “They’re not covered with snow on Earth Day.”

Work ran from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. As crews finished up their tasks at one spot, they came back and got sent out to new spots.

The extra help lets them get things done in a short amount of time, Waara said. The Department of Public Works brought over tolls and also picked up all the collected debris afterward.

“We’re volunteers, and we do the best we can with what we have,” Waara said. “And a lot of our volunteers are gone away still for the winter. So it’s a good way to just look good right before the season starts.”

Members of Keweenaw Young Professionals pitched in at the KYP-maintained garden by the Powerhouse buildings, turning over the mulch and sweeping up the winter sand and salt.

“We’re just trying to get the season off to a good start,” said Katelyn Preston, who coordinated the group’s volunteer effort. “There’s some big events like graduation coming up with being so wanting to help the city look nice.”

The group, which does social events and community service, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. They had worked in the garden several times last year, making Saturday’s job easier, said member Savanna Rivest.

“I think it’s just nice to be able to do something that’s contributing to the community and get together with people at the same time, enjoy the spring weather,” she said.

At the Kestner Waterfront Park, Keweenaw Wild Ones has taken on one of the Beautification Committee gardens. A sign posted there says “Native Habitat in Progress,” as the group is working to gradually put in more native plants. Where last year they had spread wood chips at the garden, Saturday they dug down to remove the weeds underneath, giving the native plants room to thrive.

The “Native Habitat in Progress” also signifies that it’s fine for not everything in a garden to be local, said member Kristine Bradof.

“I’m not taking out the lilac that I got from my neighbor in Ripley that I planted, and daisies and things that were my mom’s in Illinois that are not native, but I’m only planting native stuff now,” she said. “So I’m increasing the proportion of what’s there that’s actually supporting birds and insects and other wildlife.”

Members of Michigan Technological University’s Rotaract Club, the college branch of Rotary, had collected several bags of trash at the park, as well as a wayward section of pipe.

“We grew up here, we grew up cleaning up these spaces too,” said Meredith Raasio. “So it’s just a continuation of the service that we did when we were in high school.”

About 20 members of Beta Sigma Theta had volunteered throughout the city, said service chair Dalton Williams.

“A big part of Greek life is service,” he said. “It’s definitely important that we’re out here.”

The group’s also volunteered at places like the former Calumet Air Force Base. Saturday, members were working at the gardens at the Vault parking deck before moving up to gardens near Tadych’s.

“You can see they’re trying to make the city really pretty, and it’s nice to have a hand in that,” said Tyler Miller.

Some of the volunteers who came back to the City Center also chipped in by painting rocks. They are being added to an art piece that will start near the Suomi Restaurant and extend along the waterfront.

The rocks were free. But with a little bit of paint and some ingenuity, it created something that will help people “smile when they come to our town,” Waara said.

“We want people to stay along the waterfront and stay in our gardens and eat outside and just linger here because we’re a unique place,” she said.

The beautification committee has been fortunate to work with elementary schools, Michigan Tech and other groups who provide volunteers during the year, Waara said.

“People want to be involved,” she said. “They’re becoming part of something bigger than themselves.”


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