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UTC Gets Landscape Facelift

Days after the world was rocked by the events of the now infamous Sept. 11, President George W. Bush asked the country to return to work and carry on with our normal routines. Like many Americans did, Ron Austin of Austin's Landscape Services and Claire Ackroyd Ed Tech/Development Assistant for United Technologies Center (UTC) showed their patriotic pride and carried out plans to beautify a vocational school campus in Bangor, Maine as part of a charity project.

Situated close to New York, many people there had ties to the tragic events in one way or another. As September 14 came along, the day the beautification project was scheduled, the group decided to go ahead with the plans.

"It was a beautiful day," Ackroyd said. "People came from Portland and other areas bringing tons of stuff and massive amounts of energy and good will."

The campus sits on a bare piece of property surrounded by car dealerships. Lots of work had gone into making the interior of the building look much like an upscale college, but the exterior was still uninviting. As part of her job, Ackroyd was drawn in to do adult and community education for horticultural projects.

"I got started doing a vegetable garden under a grant," Ackroyd said. "Then we got a grant for a greenhouse, a grant for a tractor, and the whole project began to develop momentum."

The UTC's director, Greg Miller, began discussing ideas with Cianbro, a local concrete company. After several conversations Cianbro agreed to re-pave the entrance to the campus for free. The company used colored concrete to create a compass rose in the middle of the driveway, which has now become a symbol for the school, questioning students about which direction they are heading.

Ackroyd then consulted with her friend Ron Austin, who worked for her years ago when she had a nursery. Austin suggested getting the Maine Landscape and Nursery Association (MeLNA) involved in a charity work project and began to organize the event. MeLNA had done charity work projects each year as a part of their mission statement. "We had gotten away from that in the past couple years," Austin said.

One of the reasons Austin wanted to involve MeLNA was to get them some notoriety in other areas of the state. Since the organization is based out of Portland, Maine, they don't get much recognition outside the local area. Austin felt the charity project in Bangor might bolster more membership in the organization.

The property included a large 200-foot-long berm, which was constructed to conform to local codes. The berm was very hard to mow and became an eyesore. MeLNA agreed to get involved and decided to plant the berm.

Plant materials used for the project were all native to the area. "We are going to try and demonstrate the use of native plant materials in an urban setting," Ackroyd said. The landscape horticulture program at the University of Maine is in the process of developing a trial program to evaluate native plant material in urban settings. "We are going to be one of the trial sites," she said.

Ackroyd also has plans to collaborate with the culinary arts program. An organic garden was established and will give culinary students the opportunity to grow vegetables for use in the classroom.

After all was said and done, donations from companies across the state fell somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000. Companies who were present for the event included: Austin's Landscape Service from Old Town; New Lands Nursery from Ellsworth; Spragues Nursery from Bangor; Pierson Nurseries from Biddeford; Windswept Garden from Bangor; and O'Donal's Nurseries from Gorham.

Those who supplied native plant materials and sod included: New Lands Nursery; Spragues Nursery; Pierson Nurseries; Windswept Garden; O'Donal's Nurseries; Hoboken Nursery from Rockport, Maine; Moody's Nursery and Garden Center from Saco; Western Maine Woodies from Fryeburg; Plainview Farm Lawn & Garden Services from Yarmouth; Atlantic Landscape & Nursery from Jonesport; and Down East Turf Farms from Kennebunk.

Soil Amendment and mulch suppliers included: Northland Bark Mulch Company from Milford; New England Organics from Falmouth; Blue Seal Feeds 'N' Needs from Bangor; Spragues Nursery; and Windswept Garden.

Others who supplied trucking and equipment time were: Owen J. Folsom Sand and Gravel Co. from Old Town; The Yardsmith from Orono; New Lands Nursery; and Austin's Landscape Service.

Money contributions were donated by: Longfellow's Greenhouse from Manchester; Skillins Greenhouse from Falmouth Forside; and Lucas Tree Experts from Portland.

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October 20, 2019, 8:16 pm PDT

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