Neighborhood Associations Work To Beautify Athens

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It takes a group effort to create a sense of community in a city or a town. In Athens, one large effort that may go unnoticed is that of the Neighborhood Associations.

There are a total of five neighborhood associations in Athens: the Far East, Near Eastside, Near North, South Side and Westside.

Alan Swank, Far Eastside neighborhood association president, says these associations provide an organized way to serve a specific neighborhood's needs, provide a forum for community discussion and help concerned residents to contact city officials.

“It often takes an organized group of citizens with similar concerns to get together, if nothing else to just bring awareness to certain situations. I think when we do that the city will be better off,” said Swank.

The five neighborhoods meet once a month to talk about concerns they share so that they can work together proactively.

“We talk about concerns that we might share across these boundaries so that all five associations discuss whether or not we have shared interests and concerns and issues,” said Westside Community Association President Beverly Flannigan.

Flannigan says approaching city representatives as a group with their ideas or concerns is easier and more productive than going to city officials individually.

“We feel free to speak to go to city council and address the council anytime we wish. We sometimes write letters to the editor or [opinion editorials]. We present resolutions and so on; we've done a great deal I think as a group,” Flannigan said.

The associations have already come together to initiate and take part in Beautification Day, historic preservation, and town hall meetings just to name a few. One of the ways Westside residents took a stand against graffiti in their neighborhood was by building the Schafer Street wall, made with bricks from right here in Southeast Ohio. Association leaders say they would like to see more residents understand the benefits of working together to build a sense of community in the city they live in.

“I live in Athens. This is my community; whether I'm in the Southside neighborhood, or your neighborhood, or your neighborhood, or downtown on Court Street. And if we can just get more people thinking that way, the better,” Swank said.

Two goals that the associations hope to accomplish next are ridding city sidewalks of loose garbage cans and recruiting Ohio University students as members to create a greater sense of community between them and permanent residents.