By Jon Nehring and Mary Kirkland
If you were in downtown Marysville during mid-April, you couldn’t drive or walk far without seeing enthusiastic, hard-working community volunteers, merchants and city employees pulling together to give Marysville a once-over spring cleaning to polish its image and put an extra shine in the heart of downtown.
During Marysville’s weeklong blitz dubbed Clean Sweep Week, the city harnessed the power of teamwork-fueled volunteers and multiple city department teams to mobilize a variety of tasks, while providing free opportunities for residents to get their own spring cleaning started.
•Volunteers grabbed paint brushes and rollers and painted over graffiti on fences and buildings during our Graffiti Paint Out, joined by the mayor, several city council members and their children. Volunteers also picked up trash within the nine-block area.
In partnership with Waste Management NW, city public works crews scoured streets and alleys to remove unsightly junk that has contributed to blight and created an eyesore for neighbors, and pressure-washed sidewalks and brick-laden planting strips.
Street crews performed road re-striping, painting and right-of-way maintenance.
City parks workers planted dazzling displays of flowers in public spaces, installed artistic bike racks on Third Street, and refurbished trash receptacles in the Third Street shopping district as a sneak preview of decorative benches and other surprises still to come.
At City Hall, about 600 residents brought boxes of personal documents totaling 11,600 pounds for destruction at our free annual Shred-A-Thon, to help prevent identity theft.
Marysville First Assembly Church held its free “Got Trash Day,” providing more than a dozen large Dumpsters on site where residents discarded old appliances, electronics, furniture and other big items.
The Allen/Quilceda Watershed (AQWA) Team’s Earth Day Celebration had volunteer groups spread mulch, remove invasive plants and plant trees at the Qwuloolt Estuary Restoration Site.
Marysville’s Clean Sweep Week is all about establishing civic pride, creating a better quality of life in Marysville and our downtown, and inspiring residents and businesses to take ownership of our neighborhoods not just for one week, but every week. Our goal with Clean Sweep was to create as much visible change as we could in a short period of time, and, done successfully, transplant this same approach to other parts of the community. We all want quick results, but also results that will last.
Downtown revitalization the larger goal
These good works only scratch the surface of a much broader initiative by the City of Marysville to create a safer, more attractive and inviting downtown to live or play, improve the city’s business climate, and keep our momentum going on downtown revitalization. The city has carried out many solutions to effectively address general unattractiveness, criminal and drug-related activity, and code enforcement issues in the downtown and waterfront areas. The improvements we are making today represent valuable assets to prospective employers looking for a new place to relocate or call home.
Establishing a safer downtown
In response to a perception among business owners, residents and park-goers that downtown was becoming an unsafe place, the City Council in February adopted a “Stay Out of Drug Area” (SODA) to deter drug-related criminal activity and impose stiffer penalties on repeat offenders. Council members also strengthened existing laws aimed at reducing aggressive panhandling and lewd conduct in public places.
The “stay out” zone encompasses the area from 1st Street north to 9th Street and from Ash Avenue along I-5 east to Alder, a high-crime area (drug-trafficking, theft, vehicle prowls) that accounts for more than 20 percent of drug-related crime in Marysville, yet geographically represents only 2 percent of the city.
Comeford Park is one central location that has been tarnished by undesirable activity, creating an intimidating environment at times for families who want to enjoy a day in the park. Our focus with these laws is the safety of our citizens — pedestrians and drivers, business owners, and visitors who come to Marysville to enjoy our parks, downtown and shopping.
A cleaner, more pleasant downtown
In recent years, the city has heard increasing requests from downtown business owners and residents who wanted the city’s help to combat a perceived deterioration of the downtown and waterfront area. City officials and members of the Downtown Merchants Association are collaborating now on solutions to create a cleaner, more beautiful downtown; we have met together and discussions are ongoing. Collaboration between the city and downtown merchants has planted a seed of enthusiasm for beautification, and spurred them on to do bigger and better things. But merchants are busy people who respond better to seeing hands-on activity before buying into the latest beautification ideas. That’s where Clean Sweep Week illustrated that the intentions are genuine. Future aesthetic improvements this spring will include ornately carved benches, decorative planters, banners and other eye-pleasing features.
Overall aesthetic cleanup of properties plays an important role in addressing deterioration of neighborhoods and supports businesses and residents who already take great pride in their properties. It only takes one poorly maintained property to affect the look and feel of an entire neighborhood or business district.
In March, the city sent letters to hundreds of homes downtown inviting residents to join in Clean Sweep Week, and host their own work parties. We know there are many people who take pride in their home maintenance and yards. It can be frustrating when these efforts stop at a property boundary, only to have neighbors whose inability or unwillingness to complete basic upkeep of their home and yard contribute to an overall decline in neighborhood home values and image.
The letter invited property owners to contact the city to arrange for our crews to remove clutter visible from local streets and sidewalks, at no cost to them. This was a first step on the city’s part to work with residents to gain compliance, without advancing to more formal code enforcement procedures regarding an alleged violation or public nuisance. Self-compliance is always our preference.
How did we do? In all, 34 of 36 identified downtown code enforcement violations were resolved. Through voluntary property cleanup efforts and a canvassing of downtown streets and alleys, Public Works crews and Waste Management NW removed:
•15 yards of concrete
75 yards of garbage
100 yards of old wood from ramshackle outbuildings
More than 80 old tires.
Inspiring neighborhood pride
Sometimes the best way to inspire positive social change is through the simple act of recognition.
In March, the city launched its new Pride of Marysville Neighborhood Improvement Awards. Whether it’s landscaping or remodeling, building renovations or impressive architectural design, or improvements that make a neighborhood stand out, the new awards recognize people who took the initiative to bring an added shine to their property. Their efforts reflect well on the community, and could inspire others to do the same. Nomination brochures are available at city buildings and online at marysvillewa.gov. Winners will be announced and publicly honored in July, and presented with engraved yard markers.
Clean Sweep Week takes partners
During tight economic times, when dollars are stretched and resources are scarce, mobilizing a cleanup effort of Clean Sweep Week’s magnitude cannot happen without a dedicated core of businesses, churches, organizations and community volunteers willing to step up and do the work.
We were fortunate to have the following partners become part of the solution, including: Waste Management NW, Marysville Downtown Merchants Association, HomeStreet Bank, North County Outlook, American Data Guard, Hilton Pharmacy, E&E Lumber, Home Depot, Carr’s Hardware, Costco, Bleachers Grill at Cedarcrest, Marysville First Assembly Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Marysville Sunrise Rotary Club, YMCA, Marysville NJROTC, Boys and Girls Club, Boy Scouts Troop 419 and Camp Fire USA. These groups and others worked side by side with our city departments including Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Community Development, Police and Marysville Volunteer Program (MVP) volunteers, the Mayor’s Office and others.
Clean Sweep Week is a cost-effective, highly visible example of our commitment to creating a more livable, attractive and well-kept community. Well-maintained homes, neighborhoods and businesses stand as a testimonial that we take pride in their community. With pride comes value, beauty and a great image and identity for our city.
About the authors
Jon Nehring is mayor of Marysville. Mary Kirkland owns Hilton Pharmacy and represents the Marysville Downtown Merchants Association.