This past Saturday, members of the DDA’s Streetscape division and other DDA employees converged, clean-up equipment in hand, on the 500 and 600 blocks of Spring Street.
The employees at the Blind Tiger restaurant at 120 Texas Street certainly noticed the activity. The large storefront windows to their popular eatery look out on heavily-trafficked Spring Street, and to the south, the entrance to the Long-Allen (‘Texas Street’) Bridge. Unfortunately, that view, especially since the winter ice storm, has been awful. Planters once filled with hearty shrubs were instead bristling with dead foliage, weeds, and almost every conceivable type of litter.
The private vacant lot on the south side of the bridge was likewise spilling over with litter, and looked unkempt; the planters on the south side were equally abysmal but even more so because they are so visible to oncoming traffic.
In the 600 block of Spring, weeds had found their way through the brick pavers and a small, sad, aphid-infested crape myrtle (we are NOT crape myrtle fans) had failed to thrive.
On the west side of the 500 block of Spring Street, a small private lot was filled with debris and weeds and pretty much always looks rough.
Monday through Sunday, members of the DDA’s Streetscape division change out all of downtown garbage cans, pick up enough sidewalk refuse to fill multiple dumpsters, sweep and vacuum the streets, sidewalks and curbs, hang banners, wreaths, power wash to get rid of stains and odors, weed eat, and handle a lengthy list of daily needs without which downtown would look very dirty, very quickly. Because these tasks are so all-consuming, there is little time left for deeper dives into areas that can use it.
That changed after a meeting with Bill McCollum of Eagle Financial Management Services. Bill lives in Shreveport and has an office downtown; he had called to meet to talk about his concerns about the look of the city; the litter, poor property standards and the overall feeling of a lack of concern. He wasn’t just there to talk-he had worked on a proposal to engage neighborhoods and other stakeholders in helping to participate in ongoing cleanup and had even met with the Mayor about his idea. Bill was adamant that this could not be something that city employees alone could accomplish.
One thing that Bill knew is that our surroundings make a difference in our outlook. Littered, nasty, unkempt areas are generally not happy places. They do not attract positive attention, they are not appealing to investors, developers or visitors, they work against our community as a whole. After talking to Bill, I determined that- with the help of our Streetscape unit and other employees willing to give up half a Saturday once a month- we could do more and help make a little of that difference downtown that Bill was hoping to see elsewhere.
Starting in September, we have focused all the employees we can encourage and all the equipment we have at our disposal, on small parts of downtown that need extra love. The first work Saturday was the entrance into downtown on Spring Street and over to Market Street at Lake Street. The difference after five hours of shoveling, cutting, weeding, trimming, hauling and prolific sweating was pretty remarkable. There was a visible difference, and people noticed it.
This extra Saturdays might bust our Streetscape budget, but we’ll figure it out, because it’s worth it. Sadly, one cleanup only looks good for a while, so we will work our way back around. Our Streetscape guys take it all in stride and sum it up by saying, ‘It’s job security.’
Our next cleanup is planned for Saturday, Dec. 4 and we will be focusing on the area around the 400 block of Crockett and down Marshall Street to Lake Street. You are certainly invited to participate; we will put you to work. If you have a section of downtown you would like us to focus on during one of our Saturday work days, just drop us a line.