Wednesday, March 26, 2008

GANA meeting: Trees and Cold Frames

7-9 pm First United Church on 3rd St

7 p.m. Meeting

  • Reports on the four grants: Small and Simple (sign toppers), Clean-Up, Neighborhood Improvement (kiosks and benches), Capital Improvement (pocket parks?)
  • Discussion on the 5th street "improvements."
  • Discussion of the Bypass widening.
  • Report on the Urban Forest student project in Green Acres.
7:45 p.m. Refreshments (thanks Ann!)

8:00 p.m. Speakers: Green Acres residents Eric Schedler and Katie Zukof will discuss season-extension gardening using cold frames.


Katie Zukof, Eric Schedler, Graham Montague, Summer Vergiels, Jelene Campbell, Kevin Polk, Kathy Ruesink, Ann Kreilkamp, Jessica Gaus, John Gaus; SPEA Forestry students Kendra Vorenkamp, Kevin Glenn, Gavin Vandergriff.

Photo by Georgia Schaich

The Process

Because Kevin had three grant-related announcements, Katie volunteered to take notes.

First, the Small and Simple Grant for the sign toppers was approved. Once we decide on colors (see poll at right), the signs will be manufactured and installed—hopefully before Summer Solstice, when the neighborhood may have some type of get together. Ann explained that the idea behind the sign toppers was to do something to get started on physical change in the neighborhood. Kevin remarked that the neighborhood needs to become a place again, not a short-cut.

Second, our Neighborhood Cleanup Grant proposal was approved. However, the dumpster vendor was unavailable for our first choice of dates, May 10, because they were already booked for IU move-out weekend. Worse, the vendor won't support our second-choice date of May 17, either. That's two of the four dates provided in the grant instructions, so now we're waiting for HAND to find a new vendor who will work with one of these dates. For the cleanup itself, HAND will provide a collection point for refuse including spare tires, used car batteries, motor oil and large objects, and recycle or dispose of them for free. A chipper will be available (yes, you may keep the mulch). We may also use the collection point for a neighborhood freecycle exchange for used but usable items.

Third, Kevin has submitted a Letter of Intent for this year's extra Neighborhood Improvement Grant. The letter outlined our plans to put permanent signs/kiosks/benches in the public right-of-way to announce neighborhood events such as meetings, ice cream socials, plant shares, etc. The City was receptive to the idea, but not the part about cob benches (because they used unfamiliar building materials). Kevin would rather develop pocket parks, playgrounds, etc., but the signs were a pressing issue last year when the temporary event signs became too weathered to use. Part of the problem is that the temporary signs announcing GANA events may not be posted for more than 3 days (never mind that rental signs can stay up for months). Those present said they'd be happy to pass wooden sandwich signs from yard to yard every three days to get around that rule. There will be another opportunity to apply for Neighborhood Improvement Grants in the Fall. If we want pocket parks, we need to hammer out the details with the City this summer.

Next we discussed the Bypass widening. John asked if it would be possible to use trees as a sound barrier. Ann said it is not in the plan, but the plan is only 85% complete, so our input could still make a difference. She mentioned that Tim Mayer has been pushing for some sort of sound-proof fencing.

The current plan includes a pedestrian underpass below the Bypass on 7th. Perhaps a pocket park could be worked into the plan near there. City Planner Bob Woolford has pointed out that revolving neighborhood Capital Improvement Grant funds become available from time to time to do projects spelled out in Neighborhood Plans. However, to happen, this requires a clear vision and that the neighborhood take the initiative early and often to communicate that vision to City Hall.

Kevin pointed out how we missed such an opportunity with the 5th Street drainage/sidewalk project. In late 2006, city planners sought input from GANA on alternatives to just burying the existing creek on 5th that crosses Hillsdale and Overhill. Not only did the planners seem to consider our suggestions (re-digging the swales to expose the creek or putting in rain gardens upstream and in the center of a roundabout on 5th and Hillsdale), but a staff hydrologist had already done drawings and analysis for all of these ideas. We expected to be invited to the next meeting, but time passed with no further word. The next thing we knew, the contractor had been hired and the project was getting underway, with none of that green, sustainable stuff we had been talking about. The plan had been finalized without us. Worse, the project going in lacks any visible way of satisfying EPA Rule 13 (which requires some way to clean the runoff)—the City's original impetus to talk with us about sustainable alternatives.

The lesson: to avoid being left in the dark, we need to take initiative in these discussions and check in with the City on a regular basis.

The monthly MPO Citizens Advisory Committee meeting regarding the Bypass coincides with GANA's meetings. Those present felt it was important enough to attend the MPO meetings that we decided to move the date of the next few GANA meetings to the first Wednesday of the month. Thus the next GANA meeting will be held May 7.

Summer and Graham noted that traffic along Hillsdale, 7th and Clarke is much too fast for pedestrian safety, especially for children. Ann and Kevin briefly mentioned the City Repair projects that had been discussed for traffic calming in Green Acres. A proposed roundabout on 5th was opposed within the neighborhood and the City is hostile to neighbors painting intersections. Nevertheless, many GANA members would like to make Green Acres safe for walking, even at the expense of convenience to through-traffic. Speed bumps and other traffic-calming measures were briefly discussed.

The SPEA Urban Forestry students announced that they will be planting two mature trees in front of the fire station at 3rd and Jefferson on April 17 from 2:30 to 3:45 pm. If the neighborhood or class gets more volunteers we could plant up to 10 trees in the City rights-of-way in Green Acres (see graphic below for possible locations). John spoke about how in Germany, private property owners must apply to municipal authorities to plant or remove trees, because the trees outlast the owners and tenants.

Potential tree planting sites by tree size.

The students want to do an online survey so that they can get more input. They need about 50-100 people to respond. Various methods were discussed; the students will start with an online survey and see if that nets enough response. They also offered to comb the recent tree inventory for any data of interest to the neighborhood, such as sick trees that may need to be replaced soon. Kathy asked how the 5th street project affects the planting locations. Apparently, there will not be an area for tree plantings between the sidewalk and the street.

The students also passed around a mock-up of their very ambitious brochure about the trees in Green Acres.

We adjourned for refreshments around 8:10 p.m. When we reconvened, Eric began his presentation.

A cold frame is a short box with a transparent top and no bottom. Eric and Katie, who moved into a house on Dekist last fall, used cold frames as mini-greenhouses to extend the growing season through the winter.

Their cold frames are 8 inches tall on the South or sun-facing side and 12 inches tall on the North side. Even when outdoor temperatures reach 25F, interior temperatures remain above freezing. During the day, temperatures can reach 60F and higher even in January. Because of its small air volume, the cold frame heats up quickly and must be opened on sunny days.

To build one, Eric suggests starting with three 8-foot untreated boards, two of them 12 inches wide and one 8 inches wide. Cut one of the 12 inch boards in half and angle-cut the resulting pair of 4-foot boards so that one end is 8 inches high and the other 12. For the lights, Eric used storm windows available at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. $100 was enough to build several cold frames from 1-inch stock. Next time he and Katie might use 2 inch stock for durability.

Cold frames provide extra warmth, but not extra sunlight, which limits the crops that will grow in them. Arugula and cilantro will grow visibly throughout the winter. Chard, lettuce, beets, radishes, carrots and spinach may be planted in late summer and harvested all winter.

Some plants such as cabbage, broccoli, sometimes even carrots, are too tall for cold frames. For those it's better to build a plastic-wrapped tunnel over metal half-hoops for season extension. However, cold frames provide easier access to the plants than tunnels.

Cold frames can also be used as big seedling flats for plants that are already accustomed to outdoor conditions: leeks, onions, lettuce and broccoli. You could start these in March and plant them out later. Eric and Katie have also sowed peas and fava beans in cold frames, and were able to fork the soil afterwards because it was not frozen or waterlogged. Then, when it was warmer, they could take the frames off.

For our next meeting (May 7), Graham plans to talk about biointensive gardening, though we may have to find a Plan B if Summer's having her baby!

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sign toppers approved!

We did it! Our small and simple grant proposal for sign-toppers was funded. Now we need to select a final color scheme. To do that, please vote for your favorite in the poll on the right-hand column of this page. The picture above sketches our color options. Once we decide, our sign vendor will clean up the lines and fonts.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Utilities Projects in Green Acres

The City of Bloomington has informed us of two Utilities Projects in the neighborhood during the week of March 23rd through March 29th.

Manhole Installation March 24th (weather dependent) at the intersection of East 5th Street and Overhill Drive. This intersection will be closed to through traffic between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 during the installation.

Water Service will continue March 25-March 28th (weather dependent) on East 5th Street from the dead end to Overhill Drive. The street will be closed to through traffic between 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. throughout the project.

Traffic control personnel will be in place for both projects. Questions can be directed to Project Manager John Neal at 349-3697, T&D Director Tom Staley at 349-3637 or Public Affairs Specialist Jon Callahan at 349-3940.

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