The Southern Gables Neighborhood Night Out attracted over 600 people this year, a new attendance record for the annual event. The reviews were enthusiastic, with perhaps the best example having been heard at the bedtime immediately following, “I wish Neighborhood Night Out could be every week.” The mom who reported this assessment also told us that the young evaluator, who can sometimes be quite the critic of adult endeavors, said this was “the most fun one yet.” We agree. The DJ kept up the beat, and the hot dogs and lemonade brought people together in discussions of fine quality dining. Our local business supporters kept the action moving with games and treats as neighbors went in and out among the many tents and booths. The Community Garden was open to visitors as well, and attracted admirers. Groups of neighbors sat and chatted, faces got painted, and some people — mostly kids — danced.
One highlight of the evening was the drawing for prizes. Neighbors were given free tickets as they entered the grounds, and at the appointed time the DJ called out numbers for five Visa gift cards valued at $100 each. As if that wasn’t enough, the drawings closed out with a bonus: a free photo session with Alex Hearn Photography. Wouldn’t you know, the winning ticket for that one was held by a contender for the “cutest baby” title, so we know it will be well appreciated.
The other winners seemed to be just as pleased at their good fortune, and one even said “but I never win anything!” We offered to take it back but he decided to let the new winning streak get off to a good start.
What a mess! Weeds. We told you last year about our weed whack job out by the Southern Gables neighborhood entrance sign, “The Rock.” The Neighborhood Association hired a crew on its own dime (What do the Dues Do?) to clear out some 50 years’ worth of weeds on that vacant lot. Since the property belongs to the Agricultural Ditch Company and they didn’t agree with the need to clean it up, we decided to “just do it!” and were proud of the results.
Still, that was just the area adjacent to our sign, not the whole ditch. The Ag Ditch runs through our neighborhood from Jewell Avenue & Estes south past the school to Woodard, then all the way down toward Morrison Road and out to points east — it’s a massive job to maintain it. That was just too much for us to tackle. Ken Fisher, bless him, borrowed a Bushmaster and hacked at part of it next to the schoolyard one Saturday and made a dent. But getting the whole long ditch’s weeds cleaned up was a problem that Doug Whitten had been trying to get done for years. Years! There were little bureaucratic evasions and dodges that kept delaying action, not so much as to whose responsibility it was but more as to the compliance and enforcement authority. After all, “The Ag Ditch” was here before Lakewood was Lakewood, giving vague overtones of senior rights over city code enforcement. There were other excuses too, such as the difficulty of getting their large mowing machines into that confined space. Frank Bontrager, who headed up the earlier weed job, said he and Doug felt like they were pushing against a brick wall.
The weeds were at least five feet high and there were volunteer trees growing as well. Longtime residents who live next to the ditch say some of the weeds hadn’t been cut ever since they had been there, over 40 years. This has been an eyesore with weed pollen and seeds blowing all over our neighborhood. It was a nesting area for varmints and human vagrancy, and general safety to the area has been at risk. After all the ping-pong of letters to city Code Enforcement and the Ditch Company management, Doug found a solution. The solution was our City Council Ward 5 Rep, Councilwoman Dana Gutwein. Doug met with Dana. The weeds got cut.
The Ag Ditch maintenance crew finally started mowing with their big blue tractor/mower and extended mower attachment. The results were amazing! All of the tall brush and weeds next to Green Gables Elementary School and elsewhere along the ditch have been mowed. We can thank Doug, Frank, and Ken for their persistence and a big shout-out to Dana Gutwein for putting the effort over the top. And to the Agricultural Ditch Company for doing the work, despite the difficulty of getting their machines in there, and the workers who did the job, a big round of thanks from a neighborhood at last relieved of a persistent nuisance.