Neighborhood activists hit the ground running -- rather, hit the “grass mowing” -- Monday morning in Rockford for a show of neighborhood pride.
Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey, 13th Ward Democratic Alderwoman Linda McNeely, Pastor Marvin Hightower and others assembled at an overgrown lot in Rockford’s Zion West Neighborhood Monday morning.
Armed with donated powerful riding mowers, walk-behind mowers and gas powered trimmers -- not to mention the trucks and trailers required to haul the equipment -- Pastor Hightower and his team cleared the first of 28 lots in that neighborhood in just over 15 minutes.
The group plans to reclaim more than 100 additional lots in surrounding neighborhoods.
John Holmstrom, of the non-profit Rockford Corridor Improvement, says they’ve assisted the city in clearing 28 lots in that neighborhood with plans for 17 more. His organization helped with start-up costs with appropriate equipment and insurance.
The City of Rockford, in partnership with Zion West Neighborhood Association and West Gateway Coalition, set up the program to maintain abandoned residential lots while offering employment to area residents.
The city will pay West Gateway Coalition and Zion West Neighborhood Association $25 each time a lot is mowed. The United Way of Rock River Valley helped select program employees, who will be paid hourly for their work.
Plans for the reclaimed lots range from fruit groves to flower gardens. The overall effect will be safer, more beautiful lots generating involvement, employment and pride throughout.