When driving along the Key Peninsula Highway through Key Center, pay attention to the litter-free roadside and notice the hanging baskets, large flower-filled pots and weeded beds along the road. The people behind these bits of color are volunteers working with Kathy Lyons, who leads the Key Peninsula Beautification Project.
Lyons has been recruiting volunteers and raising money to pay for the hanging baskets in Key Center for years. “My inspiration was from the YouTube video ‘Castle Rock America in Bloom 2018,’” she said.
Lyons has a history of community volunteerism. She has been a member of the Key Peninsula Community Council since 2020. Before that she volunteered to organize the Scarecrow Contest for the Farm Council to promote interest in the KP Farm Tour. Like the Farm Council in 2006, the KP Beautification Project was assigned committee status by the KPC in June 2021. Both function under the nonprofit umbrella of the council, which provides a degree of sustainability and allows for long-range planning.
While the focus of the group of over a dozen volunteers is gardening, another beautification project encouraged photographers to submit their best local photos to the Pierce County Arts Commission. Heidi Hooper of Lakebay won $500 for her “Seashells by the Seashore,” that now ennobles a utility box in Key Center on the southwest corner of the KP Highway and 92nd Street NW.
The most recent improvement was the return of flower baskets along the roadside through Key Center. “This is a low-budget operation,” Lyons said. “I made and sold calendars to raise money to buy the flowers for the baskets. I raised about $1,000 and this was supplemented by a grant from the Angel Guild.”
Lyons listed two other projects enhancing the approach to the Vaughn Post Office. The first was the restoration of painted wooden animals on the fencing around the retention pond, a decades-old Two Waters Arts Alliance project for Key Peninsula Middle School students. “I engaged amateur artists, professional artists like Tweed Meyer, and families to (repaint) the animals,” Lyons said.
The second project was the landscaping along the east side of Anker Lane NW, the access road to the post office. Volunteers put down a weed barrier, added new bark and planted small trees.
Lyons and volunteer Kamryn Minch completed the most involved project and perhaps the most visible. Now that it is in full bloom, the intersection island at State Route 302 and the KP Highway has generated interest and feedback, Lyons said.
It took over a year to obtain the required permission from the Washington State Department of Transportation to plant the flowers. Lyons worked with the county and state to secure support. A budget was provided by WSDOT, and Minch developed three different designs submitted for consideration. In the end, WSDOT provided equipment and materials to replace soil and auger holes for 100 plants. Purdy Topsoil and Chuck West donated bark to finish the project.
The heat dome event of June 2021 occurred shortly after the planting. Some feared that these volunteer efforts would be wasted. However, volunteer Jim Monnerjahn found a way to handle watering with garbage cans and a portable pump.
“The feedback I am getting from people driving by has been really positive and gratifying; not just because I designed it, but because people appreciate it. It shows that we are making a difference,” Minch said. “Kathy is the legs behind all of it, I am able to provide my designs and my hands for weeding, but she is our leader.”
More projects are on the drawing board, including a possible welcome sign in Key Center with a sitting area or even a small park.
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