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From trash to tire garden treasure

Olde Richmond Civic Association Green Streets turns tire dumping issue into garden beautification project at intersection of Aramingo and Lehigh avenues

Finishing touches: Plants await to be planted in the ORCA tire garden.

By Melissa Komar

The Olde Richmond Civic Association Green Streets volunteers did a complete cleanup of the cement alcoves located in the parking lot of Dollar Plus Party Fair at the intersection of Lehigh and Aramingo avenues in February.
Two days later, someone dumped more than 100 tires in between the concrete pillars.
ORCA contacted Community Life Improvement Program and the tires were removed. A few days later, another 100 tires were dumped at the same location.
Rather than be discouraged by the disrespect of their hard work, volunteers decided to turn the situation into an opportunity.
“We decided to stay with our mission of beautifying the community and use the tires that were dumped,” said Rose Thomas, one of the organizers of the ORCA Green Streets initiative. “And we thought, ‘The cubbies are cool. What can we do with them?’”
And so, a tire garden was born.
On Friday, June 30, summer camp participants from Portside Arts Center came to the parking lot to paint tires.

Portside summer camp participants paint tires for the ORCA tire garden.

Thomas and ORCA secretary Dan Martino collaborated on partnering with Portside.
“We just thought it would be an awesome project for the art campers,” Thomas said. “They have different themes during camp and one was ‘community day’ and we thought this was a perfect fit.”
So did the campers.
Amid shouts of, “More tires, Mr. Dan!,” the children painted dozens of tires with the help of Martino, Thomas, Portside art program instructor Kelsie Lilly, and ORCA president Don Gould.
“I like the project because I can get messy and we get to help the Earth,” said Selah Varaso, 8.
Getting messy was something all the kids seemed to appreciate.
“It’s fun because we’re getting messy and helping the environment because we’re recycling instead of buying new things,” said Julianna McMullen, 10.
In addition to reusing the tires that were dumped for the project, ORCA saved money on paint.
Colomy Paint and Decorating, 210 W. Girard Ave., donated the four 5-gallon containers of paint for the project, which would have cost more than $500.
After the tires dried, volunteers came back to the parking lot on Saturday morning to construct the tire garden.
About a dozen volunteers filled the tires with dirt and rocks to hold them in place and planted various types of flowers and plants.
Nearby resident Dave Wegner brought his sons, Evan, 6, and Graham, 4, to the tire garden event.
“I like them to feel like they can be involved in the neighborhood,” he said. “And when we drive by, they can see they were part of this.”
The boys previously attended one of ORCA’s weekend cleanups and caught the civic bug, asking to come out and help ever since, according to Wegner.
“I just want to help,” Evan said, “and the tires are good for climbing.”
“I helped pick up big rocks and threw them in the tires,” Graham added, “and I swept.”
At the end of the day, volunteers and ORCA members had assembled two gardens in the alcoves closest to Aramingo Avenue.
The goal is “to ultimately make one in every cubby,” according to Thomas.
For now, ORCA is taking it one tire at a time.
To help with maintenance, low-water, perennials were chosen and a group of rotating ORCA volunteers will water the garden on a weekly basis, according to Thomas.
“We want the community to have green space and show people who dump here there are people who care,” Thomas said. “This is the gateway to our neighborhood. It’s a huge intersection and it’s very visible and we want to keep it beautiful.”
To get involved with ORCA projects, visit the Olde Richmond Civic Association — ORCA Facebook page.

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