Councilman Paul McMillan Revives Hoquiam’s Yard of the Month Program to Lift Spirits and Build Community During COVID-19

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This lovely yard was created by Laurie Russell and Evan Harner. They were honored with the Ward 2 August award. Photo credit: Christine Vincent

The COVID-19 lock-down has put a damper on Grays Harbor summer cheer. No fairs, no festivals, no shows, and, worst of all for Hoquiam residents, no Loggers’ Playday. This has not happened in 56 years. With nothing else to do outside our homes, many of us have cultivated the pastimes of taking walks or bike rides. And we have discovered that our hometown has become quite lovely to look at.

grays harbor community hospital logoThe corona virus hit at a time when the recovering economy had caused a new bloom on the streets of Hoquiam. Many homes and buildings were being painted or remodeled, the Hoquiam Beautification Committee had planted flowers all over the downtown area, and sidewalks have been repaired.

Almost two months into the lock-down, Councilman Paul McMillan suggested to the City Council that they revive the Hoquiam’s Yard of the Month program to help lift the community spirit. This was the second revival of this program. There is nothing that lifts the mood better than flowers. The gorgeous hanging baskets mounted by the Hoquiam Beautification Committee add so much charm to our city center. Away from the main traffic arteries, however, blooming bounty is provided and cared for by the dedicated labor of homeowners who love to garden.

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The pleasure is visible on the face of this Hoquiam’s Yard of the Month award recipient. Photo courtesy: Paul McMillan

The Hoquiam’s Yard of the Month Program honors outstanding yards in each of the six city wards. The twelve council members suggest yards they find particularly attractive and select one yard per ward per month. The recipients of the award get to display a sign for a period from three weeks to a month. Photos are posted on the City of Hoquiam Facebook page. The comments show that neighbors and strangers alike take much interest in the beautiful yards. Names and addresses are kept private, which has challenged one commenter to go in search of the pictured yards – what fun!

McMillan enjoys rewarding residents for the many hours of hard work they put into their yards. The program gives him a chance to connect. “People are thrilled, ecstatic, to be recognized when they receive the sign,” he says.  The emphasis is not so much on expensive professional landscaping but on the labor of love homeowners put into creating something beautiful. In fact, not all recipients own their homes. Awards are also going to renters and even apartment renters. McMillan remembers a senior trailer park resident who received the award many years ago during a previous run of the program. “She passed away soon after,” he says. “The award meant so much to her that it was mentioned in her obituary as a highlight of her life.”

Ron and Carol Blood received the August award for their beautiful yard on 1022 Wheeler Avenue in Ward 5. Carol is more critical of her gorgeous yard than the council members. “I hurt my arm,” she says. “I could not work as much in the yard as I usually do.” Nevertheless, the result is stunning, with neatly trimmed flower beds, decorated with statuary and vintage items. The entrance steps are framed with two antique milk cans, painted red. Carol brought them from her family’s homestead in South Dakota.

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This beautiful yard belongs to Don and Carol Blood who won the Hoquiam’s Yard of the Month Ward 5 August award. Photo credit: Christine Vincent

Laurie Russell and Evan Harner are proud of their yard on 46 Railroad Avenue, which won the August award in Ward 2. The perimeter of the pretty sky-blue house is outlined with flowers that the couple has grown from seeds. The homegrown plants also fill abundant hanging baskets on the porch and a collection of beautiful vintage containers. “We add something different each year,” says Laurie. “I have a green house to raise the plants in, but it has no heat, so it takes a little longer for the plants to grow.” The result is certainly worth the wait.

The home of Paul and Donna Scott on 1022 Beacon Hill Drive does not just have a magnificent view over the bay. The yard is just as eye-catching with a large array of flowers, shrubs and patriotic decorations, meticulously cared for by Donna. A family of realistic-looking feline guardians perch on the shrubs near the front porch. The Scotts’ yard was recognized with the Ward 1 award in July.

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Donna and Paul Scott received the Hoquiam’s Yard of the Month July award for this gorgeous yard in Ward 1. Photo credit: Christine Vincent

Now in its third month, the Hoquiam’s Yard of the Month Program has proven to be a humble but effective means to lift spirits in the community. An important side effect is the connection building between the homeowners and the city government. Some recipients were not aware of the ward they lived in or of the names of their council members.

McMillan is not sure how long the program will continue into fall. However, he plans to give out awards for Christmas lighting. “There are some beautiful Christmas displays out there each year and people should be rewarded for their work there, too,” he says.

Councilman Paul McMillan encourages initiatives to boost pride in our city. Contact him at 360-532-2774, pmcmillan@cityofhoquiam.com. You may also recommend yards to be honored to your own council members. Visit the City of Hoquiam Government Facebook page to like or comment on Yards of the Month.

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