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Published: Thursday, 5/20/2004

Rite of spring brings flowers, mowers back to city boulevards

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The thistles are almost in bloom in the flower beds on Huron Street, the overgrown weed ready to burst its tiny purplish buds.

Kattie Bond, director of Toledo's Department of Parks, Recreation, and Forestry, promised yesterday those beds will be weeded this week, and the thistles banished.

Ms. Bond says the city's annual mowing and flower planting is on the same schedule used last year, but at least one member of City Council said the city is looking shaggy.

"There were promises that people would see no impact from the budget cuts," District 2 Councilman Rob Ludeman said. "The city's not looking elegant with the way the grass is growing right now."

The parks department this spring has a crew of 27 people operating mowing tractors and five assigned to pick up litter. Last year - also a year for severe budget constraints - the department had 30 mowing staff and 10 people on litter detail.

The mowing is operating with at least one less administrator as well. Instead of a forestry commissioner and a manager, the department now has only a manager, following the retirement of former Commissioner Robert Casaletta.

Mr. Ludeman said the Anthony Wayne Trail is "beautiful," while other sites have tall overgrown grass. He said he has complained about overgrown grass around Southwyck, Woodsdale Park, and Pickford Park. He said the Southwyck mowing was taken care of the day after he complained two weeks ago.

Ms. Bond said that with the exception of rain delays, the mowing is on schedule. Crews mowed at Woodsdale last weekend.

A random drive through Toledo yesterday revealed that most parks and boulevards appeared mowed.

An exception was Jack Freeh Park

at Collingwood Boulevard and Ashland Avenue, where grass grew tall and the flower beds had weeds.

Ms. Bond said the park's grass was cut earlier than its scheduled mowing to spruce it up for the April 28 visit of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and hasn't been cut since. Mr. Kerry was chaperoned to an event at the United Auto Workers Local 12 Hall on Ashland by Mayor Jack Ford.

Told of the explanation, Mr. Ludeman, a Republican, said he wished Mr. Kerry had visited Southwyck.

According to Ms. Bond's flower planting schedule, Toledoans should see a marked increase in this year's flower beds. The number of flats of flowers scheduled for planting in May and June is being increased from 652 last year to 1,002 this year. The city has 50 urban beautification sites.

The urban beautification staff this year is the same as last - 10 people, she said. In addition, the city has contracted for the first time in several years with a landscaping firm, Bishop Landscaping Inc., for $20,593 to maintain 10 major flower bed sites throughout the downtown and at the gateways to reduce the need for seasonal workers.

Bishop workers were out yesterday on the Summit Street median.

Ms. Bond said the city always waits until after Mother's Day, which was May 9, to begin planting annuals.

"Our folks are out all over," Ms. Bond said.

Many large concrete flower pots throughout the downtown were planted with annuals by yesterday. However, pots on Cherry Street, from Summit to Spielbusch Avenue, had not been planted, even though they were on last week's planting schedule.

"They are planting in the downtown area all this week, and they will be finished with those pots this week," said Mary Chris Skeldon, Mayor Ford's public information officer.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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