Furman Park landscaping is upgraded

DOWNEY - The entry area at Furman Park sports a new and exciting look today, with eye-catching drought-tolerant landscaping installed this week just in time for this summer's first event in the city's Twilight Summer Concert series. The project was initiated as a collaborative effort between Keep Downey Beautiful and the Downey Green Task Force, in cooperation with Lowe's in Pico Rivera.

Along with Lowe's employees, who delivered new plants to the Furman Park site and assisted in the first day of installation, Parks Maintenance staff and some 20 students from the Kiwanis Green Team contributed the greater part of two days of labor to the effort.

Funding for the project was provided by the Lowe's Charitable & Educational Foundation and was awarded as the result of a competitive merit-based grant process, completed by city staff on behalf of the two committees. This cooperation is significant, as it emphasizes a fundamental connection between the aesthetics of urban landscaping, as represented by Keep Downey Beautiful, and environmental sustainability, as embodied in the goals of the Green Task Force, along with the assistance of local business, with resources furnished by Lowe's Pico Rivera.

Moreover, this particular site was desperately in need of a facelift. In the words of the grant application, "the partnership will restore a blighted portion of a 55-year-old park in Downey that will serve as a demonstration garden for low-water landscaping."

As city landscaping code evolves to encourage low-water landscaping for both residences and businesses, the application also lists a half dozen goals of the project, which include not only its aesthetic benefits, but also its intention to demonstrate the water and cost savings of low-water plantings, as well as reduction of sprinkler and stormwater runoff - in summary, to "create a clear pathway for residents to implement low-water landscaping at their own homes."

Along with citizen members of Keep Downey Beautiful, the Kiwanis Green Team was also integrally involved in the project, pitching in as many as 200 person-hours of volunteer assistance during its initial installation on Monday and Tuesday. The Green Team, led by Downey Unified School District teacher and local Kiwanian Alex Gaytan, is a student organization that has demonstrated activism, volunteer commitment and leadership in the Downey community over the past two years.

Low-water plants for the project were selected from a plant palette provided to the Green Task Force by Downey naturalist Catherine Pannell Waters. They consisted of Dwarf Kangaroo Paw, Little John Dwarf Bottlebrush, Blue Fescue, Juncus Effuses, Hybrid Echeveria, Victoria's Agave, and Yankee Point--all drought-tolerant plants suitable for Downey's semi-arid climate, attractively assembled in the new landscape.

The grant amount for the landscaping renovation was officially set at $5,000, but the total effort and overall benefit to the community - not only as it adds to the beauty of Furman Park, but also as an illustration of the advantages of low-water landscaping - cannot be calculated in dollars and cents.

********** Published: July 12, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 13