Spruce Up Austin celebrates good year

Published 3:43 pm Saturday, November 13, 2010

Spruce Up Austin, Inc. is enjoying a “very good year.

That’s how Mike Ruzek, SUA,’s project leader, described the community betterment organization’s work in 2010. He also said it was another good example how the organization collaborates with others for the benefit of all residents of Austin.

“We enjoyed a very good years far as the number of projects accomplished and the collaborations with other groups went,” Ruzek said.

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The Austin Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department tops the list of partners. It’s director, Kim Underso0d, is an SUA board member.

Ruzek also singled out Bill Kinney, Austin High School varsity wrestling coach, and team members as other valuable partners.

The youth of Cornerstone Assembly of God Church and its youth pastor Cory Goetz were still another example of partners who share the SUA goal to enhance the environment in the city.

And Ruzek also praised the Austin Daily Herald’s partnership. The newspaper prints monthly columns written by SUA directors and an annual Arbor Day tabloid supplement in April.

SUA’s directors met Thursday morning for a regular monthly meeting in the Town Center conference room. Ruzek and other committee chairs are preparing their year-ending reports for president Melanie Faust’s annual activity report.

SUA was created 21 years ago. Among its most notable projects are the 100 trees along Hormel Century Parkway and the Mill Pond Pathway in Horace Austin Park to commemorate the centennial of Hormel Foods Corporation in 1991 and the 150 trees planted in 2006 to commemorate the city of Austin’s sesquicentennial anniversary.

With this year’s plantings, the total number of trees and spruce planted in Austin by SUA and it’s volunteers has grown to close to 2,500, according to Ruzek.

The 2010 projects included the Seibel Family Visitation and Child Exchange Center across from the U.S. Post Office 1st Avenue Southeast.

“With a $500 donation from the Hormel Foundation and $2,000 from SUA, the landscaping project’s $2,473 actual cost represented a value of $4,496 to the community,” explained Ruzek.

The enhancements included 75 plants and 10 tons of rock.

SUA also made a $1,500 donation to the Mower County Veterans Memorial on the northwest courthouse lawn in downtown Austin.

Volunteers spent 15 hours clearing out old plantings to make way for new landscaping, including the installation of over 600 pavers with the names of deceased veterans inscribed upon them.

An anonymous donor funded the installation of 7 new flagpoles and American flags in time for a Veterans Day display Nov. 11.

Also this year, SUA volunteers cleaned out 12 planters along Hormel Century Parkway near Honor Guards Park and replaced the plantings and protected them with mulch.

Ruzek said he is particularly “excited” by work done by the organization at the intersection of South Main Street and 8th Avenue Southeast.

“For the last 2 years we have been working on this project in collaboration with others,” he said.

The site now has 23 new trees and spruce, including 3 honorary trees.

Coming soon will be sculptures from Anderson Memorial and Jeff Anderson depicting children at play.

The sculptures acquired for a discount from Anderson Memorial show a little girl leap-frogging over a small boy and an older child flying a kite.

The site in a flood buyout area long the Cedar River and near Rotary Centennial Park began as a traffic island site that was moved from the Burr Oak neighborhood in northwest Austin to the current site. The Windom 4-H club has been a partner in the park enhancements since the project’s inception as well as Austin Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department.

“This is as good an example how Spruce Up Austin collaborates with others as any we have done,” said Ruzek.

SUA also planted 5 trees and 6 spruces at the Freeborn – Mower Habitat For Humanity headquarters in northeast Austin near Packer Arena.

The project’s actual costs were $1,200. “With Spruce Up’s assistance, the value to the community is $1,740,” Ruzek said.

As the planting season came to a close in November, SUA completed more enhancements in the Burr Oak neighborhood.

SUA’s $935 contribution was defrayed by $560 in donations from area residents solicited by SUA director Harlan Nelson.

Four planters moved into place by Austin PRF at a value of $2,400, plus plants from Berg Nursery resulted in a value of $3,803 to the community, according to Ruse’s computations.

SUA’s actual financial role: $530 thanks to the generosity of northwest Austin residents.

Another example how SUA collaborates came with the recent Plaza on First project.

With the permission of Mower County, the city created a small park-like area at the corner of 1st Street and 2nd Avenue Northeast, wheel the county has constructed a geothermal well field for the new Mower County Jail and Justice Center.

A gingko tree was planted in memory of former county commissioner Dave Tollefson, who passed away, after being a leader in the development of the new jail and justice center facilities near downtown Austin.

With SUA’s non-profit status, sales taxes on the enhancements were reduced, helping the project to its success.

Also this year, SUA collaborated with the EarthBeat volunteers from Cornerstone Assembly of God Church and youth pastor Cory Goetz to relant 3 spruce trees at Todd Park, where a June 2009 tornado devastated the tree and spruce population.

All in all, the collaboration with the city’s PRF department and other individuals and groups helped SUA reach new heights in 2010, according to Ruzek, and fulfill it’s “Deeply rooted in Austin’s future” mission.

For more information about SUA, go to wwspruceupaustin.austincoc.com/