Volunteers impact our community throughout the year

In Beautification Land, April means it is time to Sweep the Summit and plant the pansies. With each season comes an initiative from the Lee’s Summit Beautification Commission to help beauty bloom around town.

The Lee’s Summit Beautification Commission (LSBC) came into existence as a result of the city’s 21st Century recommendations of 1999. The City Council established it by resolution in May 2001. The Commission is a volunteer organization dedicated to enhancing the overall appearance, environmental awareness and livability of Lee’s Summit. By 2010, the Missouri Parks and Recreation Association awarded the LSBC a Citation Award for its work.

The commission currently has nine members representing the Lee’s Summit community: Kim Fritchie, chairman; Laura Dawson, secretary; Devin Wetzel, Parks and Recreation liaison; Randy Cain, Bruce Holiman, Carol Rothwell, Charlotte Lea, Shirley Geier and Debbie Johnson. The members come from different walks of life and offer a variety of reasons for wanting to serve on the commission.

“I travel a lot and see other cities that do so much more than we were doing with flowers and plants, and I wanted Lee’s Summit to change its culture in that regard,” says Randy Cain, a local attorney who joined the group almost 12 years ago.

The commission’s newest member, Debbie Johnson, wanted to serve because “I value my community and want to play a positive role in working with others to beautify and maintain the beauty of a town where people still have small town values and big goals.”

How does the LSBC benefit the city?

“It is always a benefit to our city to have knowledgeable, dedicated citizens focused on various elements of our community’s quality of life,” says Tom Lovell, Lee’s Summit Parks and Recreation Administrator. Our Beautification Commission is a prime example of an organization with that type of leadership and membership. They have been amazing, and our community is so much better because of their efforts.”

A primary objective of the Commission is to develop projects and programs to beautify the community. With that in mind, the group began programs such as Adopt a Spot and the annual landscape contest. The landscape contest invites residents to enter their gardens to be judged each June and receive awards and prizes for their efforts. Adopt a Spots can be found all over town. They are areas that churches or organizations have agreed to plant and maintain. The LSBC provides the funding for the plant material and expertise to help plan and plant the spot.

The large flower garden near the downtown Amtrak station on West Main Street is the site of the first Adopt a Spot sponsored by the commission in 2007. Since that time, five more Adopt a Spots have sprung up around town. They are located at the Lee’s Summit Christian Church, St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, the traffic circle by Longview shops, the traffic circle on Blackwell Road and the entrance to Campbell Middle School. Applications for Adopt a Spots can be found on the LSBC webpage.

Bruce Holiman, a local State Farm agent and commissioner, enjoys working on Adopt a Spots in the community. “You can get immediate results,” he says.

Charlotte Lea, a retired kindergarten teacher and commissioner, enjoys the hands-on aspect of working with the Adopt a Spots.

A drive through the center of Lee’s Summit on Third Street reveals another visible result of the commissions’ efforts – large and medium sized planters filled with different plant varieties for each season. Commission members do the first planting of the season – spring pansies, violas, and decorative kale. Summer transforms the planters into cascades to color, and in November, small trees and greenery are planted for the holidays. Commission members add festive bows for Christmas, hearts for Valentine’s Day and shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day. Lea said she believes that the city is uplifted by the beauty seen in the downtown planters displayed on the street corners.

Planting flowers and creating bursts of color are not the only projects taken on by the commission to achieve its goal of beautifying our town.

“Adopt A Spot is one of my favorites, but close behind is the Gateway Study that has now morphed into a city wide effort to erect monuments at all corners of our city limits announcing the entrance into a special community,” says Lovell.

The Lee’s Summit Gateway Master Plan was initiated by the LSBC at a city council meeting in 2005. A study was commissioned and a Gateway Master Plan Steering Committee was organized. Funding was provided from the Beautification Commission budget to develop design concepts for potential gateways to the city. The first monument was completed this fall at I-470 and View High Drive. More gateways are planned as funding becomes available.

“I think the Gateway signs greatly help Lee’s Summit’s efforts to have its own identity, as opposed to just being a suburb of Kansas City,” says Cain.

Educating the community regarding beautification and recycling activities is another goal of the commission. A yearly activity to accomplish this goal is Sweep the Summit, a one day cleanup of several area parks which involves students from all three Lee’s Summit high schools. There is a “trash trophy” awarded for the most trash collected per team, and members of the community are invited to join in the cleanup fun.

“I find it rewarding to be a part of the planning stages of projects and seeing them through to completion such as sweeping the city clean in the spring with our high school student volunteers,” says commission member Shirley Geier.

The commission celebrates Earth Day and Arbor Day by planting a special tree or two each year and donating saplings to local students. Last year, two red cedars were planted at Lee’s Summit High School with the help of students. Mayor Rhoads was on hand to read the annual Arbor Day proclamation. Devin Wetzel, Parks and Recreation liaison, and Kim Fritchie, Commission chairperson, travelled to Pleasant Lea Elementary to present tree talks and saplings to all the kindergarten students.

“I enjoy Earth Day and Arbor Day because we have many high school student volunteers, and it is gratifying to see the next generation become involved in volunteering,” says commission member Laura Dawson.

Most people aren’t aware that the LSBC also serves as the city’s Tree Board and that Lee’s Summit is an official Tree City USA. In that capacity, the commission provides educational activities focused on trees such as “Trees 101. Everything You Need to Know about Trees,” which was presented at the Gamber Center on March 30. Carol Rothwell, commission member since 2007, planned the seminar and has been instrumental in writing articles for local newspapers encouraging residents to help keep the city clean and their property looking its best.

In 2012, commission members raised funds to purchase trees for Joplin.

“It was very satisfying to lead a tree planting expedition to Joplin, Missouri, a few years ago after they suffered a devastating tornado,” says Rothwell. Commission members were able to donate and plant 65 flowering trees in two of Joplin’s parks.

Prompting Lee’s Summit citizens to become actively involved in beautifying the city is an ongoing goal. “The beauty of our city can be a source of pride, enhancing our property values and attracting new residents,” says Holiman. If everyone works together, great things can happen.

To find out more information about the Beautification Commission projects and to become involved, visit the Lee’s Summit Beautification Commission Facebook page or the City of Lee’s Summit’s webpage under the Parks and Recreation tab.