The small group sat attentively as members of the Parks and Recreation Commission poured on the compliments like a gardener would pour water on thirsty shrubs.
When one of the commissioners, John McKenna, said he thought members of GROW, Gardeners Reclaiming Our Waysides, should have their images immortalized in the concrete along the side of the freeway, everyone laughed. The sentiment, however, was genuine.
City officials had many ideas about how they wanted to landscape around the freeway, but had no money to do it until GROW had its grant request fulfilled, said Vern Krahn, a park planner with the city.
Fast-growing, budget-conscious Nevada hasn't been focused on landscaping around its freeways. The focus has been on getting them constructed. Period. NDOT's interest and assistance in the freeway project has pleased GROW and the city, according to Krahn and Mary Fischer, president of GROW.
"It's a very significant step," he said. 'We're relying on federal funding for landscaping a freeway." The commissioners gave an enthusiastic nod this week to the "ultimate" landscape design concept for the Carson City freeway's next leg, which extends from Highway 50 East to Fairview Drive.
The plan now goes to Regional Transportation Commission, and to the Board of Supervisors in February for final approval.
It will embody "bio-regional" designs: Sierra Nevada on the side of the freeway that will receive morning sun and Great Basin on the other side, which will have warmer, afternoon sun shining on it. Sound walls will have artwork. Flora on each side will be keyed to those themes and be drought resistant. Boulders and taluses will artistically, but naturally, be placed in an array of locations.
There will be ample seed money - literally - because of a $2 million federal appropriation for the landscaping around the freeway to GROW and the Nevada Department of Transportation.
The local nonprofit organization applied for the grant in 2002, with the city's consent. When GROW members found out that Congress approved the grant last fall, it came as a surprise, Fischer said.
"I'm not aware of a nonprofit being named for this type of grant before," she said. "We can't manage the money because we aren't a government entity."
One of the reasons the grant money came: Over and over, Fischer called the office of Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. - about once every three weeks.
"We convinced him that it would be something great," she said.
What's most important to Fischer and other members of GROW is that the organization has "a seat at the table," she said.
Even with $2 million, more money will be needed to do landscaping around the entire freeway running through the city. And this money won't come in one lump sum, which means the landscaping will progress slowly, possibly over a period of years, Krahn and Fischer emphasized.
Focus will be on growing the landscaping fund. Fischer said that perhaps matching funds from other government entities will be easier to come by with the federal money. Donations big and small, however, will be welcomed, she said.
To some people, she said, this might seem like a frivolous expense, "but it reflects on the city, on pride in the city. It's extremely important."
-- Contact reporter Terri Harber at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-2111, ext. 215.
You can help
For information or to contribute money for landscaping of the Carson City Freeway, contact GROW, Gardeners Reclaiming Our Waysides, at growinc.org or 882-6028.