Beautify Your Neighborhood

Here are four ways to make your neighborhood a more attractive, inviting place to walk:

1. Get trees planted in your neighborhood

Trees line a sidewalk in Northwest Landing, Wash.To get trees planted in your neighborhood, contact your city or town to see what programs there are for tree planting and who is responsible for planting trees. On major streets, the municipality often has jurisdiction over the planting strip between the street and the sidewalk. But on smaller, local streets it is usually the responsibility of the property owners or a homeowners association.

Regardless, work with the responsibile party for planting trees. Funding may be available from your city, local businesses, or through neighborhood grants. Make sure that the new trees will not block the pedestrian walkway or visibility at corners or driveways.

2. Keep your neighborhood clean

Flowers and trees beautify a center island in New Center, Mich.Littering and graffiti are signs of disrespect to you, your neighbors, and your community. Keep sidewalks, streets, alleyways, backyards, and lots clean at all times. In addition to keeping the area around your home clean, here are five simple ways that you can help keep your neighborhood clean:

  • Keep the sidewalk and the street in front of your home or business free of litter—don't sweep trash, leaves, or lawn clippings into the street. Instead, put litter and yard waste into a garbage bag for disposal or composting.
  • Set an example—when you go on a walk around your neighborhood, take a small trash bag along with you. If you see a piece of trash, pick it up. You'll set a great example for your neighbors, especially the children in your neighborhood.
  • Get to know the local sanitation crew or officials—personal contact with sanitation staff may be a good way to get a problem solved. Let them know you care and write a letter of praise to their superiors when they do a good job.
  • Alert the police of problem areas or when illegal dumping or graffiti occurs—if litter is repeatedly dumped in certain areas, notify the police and provide them with as much detail as possible about the problem and the problem area.
  • Organize a neighborhood clean-up day—work with your neighbors, neighborhood association or other community based organization to mobilize a group to clean up common areas, empty lots, or just around the block.

3. Develop a dumping prevention program

Three couches along with other garbage are dumped next to a sidewalk in Woodbridge, Mich.Illegal dumping involving truckloads of trash, furniture, mattresses, abandoned vehicles, or tree branches usually occurs in vacant lots or other areas and is a major problem in many communities throughout the United States. It raises significant concerns regarding public health and safety, property values, and quality of life. This problem can be very complicated, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed a useful and comprehensive guidebook that addresses the problem.

According to the guidebook, an effective illegal dumping prevention program must be customized to address the factors contributing to the problem in a given community. Four important elements must be present for an illegal dumping prevention programs to be successful:

  1. They need to be founded on leadership and support by local officials.
  2. There must be cooperation among authorities, communities, and industry.
  3. An integrated approach must be taken when addressing the problem.
  4. Success must be publicized.

Please read the EPA's Illegal Dumping Prevention Guidebook for more information about how to start a dumping prevention program in your neighborhood.

4. Report abandoned buildings and vehicles to your local government

A row of worn and abandoned buildings line a sidewalk in Woodbridge, Mich.If you notice an abandoned building or vehicle in your neighborhood, report it to your city or town hall. In some cases, local officials may not know that a building has been abandoned. Some larger cities and most states have departments which deal specifically with abandoned homes and buildings. For instance, Phoenix's Neighborhood Preservation Division has the authority through a number of local ordinances to prosecute delinquent property owners who do not maintain their properties and fence off and demolish or rehab vacant and deteriorated properties. Smaller cities may not have this type of program, but there may be precedence for dealing with abandoned buildings in the community.

Abandoned vehicles should also be reported to the police or your city or town's neighborhood department or other municipal staff. Encourage your community to establish a hot-line or Web site for reporting abandoned or inoperable vehicles and abandoned buildings. In most cases, by state law or local ordinance, abandoned vehicles can be reported after 48 or 72 hours and can result in fines for the owner and the removal and possible auctioning of the vehicle. Request a follow-up response to make sure that action is being taken by your community.

A vacant and overgrown lot fills a corner in Woodbridge, Mich.Sometimes the manpower for identifying and monitoring abandoned buildings is low or in short supply. If abandoned buildings are a widespread problem in your community, you may want to ask your city or town to obtain (or reallocate) building code enforcement resources.