Black Mountain's charm in part comes from dedication of Beautification Committee

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News

Many Black Mountain residents have a passion for maintaining the beauty of their town. 

Black Mountain Beautification Committee members discussed their role in the community and what the town would be like without their presence.

"Tourists are drawn here because of the way Black Mountain presents itself," said Gail Bromer, chair of the Beautification Committee. "Part of that is visually."

The Black Mountain Beautification Committee helped with the creation of the Town Square park as one of its first undertakings.

The role of the Beautification Committee and working with the community

With roughly 50 active members, the Beautification Committee is led by an executive board consisting of four members. Bromer, the chair of the committee for three of the four years she's been a member, said a few pivotal events led to its founding, one such event being the formation of the town square park. 

With talk of the town square being developed upon, Bromer said committee members got together to help with the creation of the park. 

"Eventually we adopted certain garden areas in town," Bromer said. "And that spread." 

The committee added street-side plant containers, developed the Seed Money grant, offered the garden sale, began hosting pop-ups and sponsored a litter sweep. 

"We decorate the town for Halloween, we decorate the town for Christmas, sometimes we see if there's a problem in the community and we'll talk to the town," said Jean Chamberlain, a three-year member of the Beautification Committee and head of the Seed Money Award program. "We have a very close relationship with the town."

The collaboration between the committee and town allows for a partnership for projects and activities. Chamberlain said most Black Mountain residents know of the committee and its impact on the community is significant. 

Every couple of weeks, Bromer said committee members will take to the streets to clean up trash, putting in extra work that the town public works may not have the funding or the time to do. 

Members consist of residents of the area, making it a fun way to meet people, Chamberlain said. Although it does require work, the committee allows people to socialize and become connected with the community through their member status. 

Bromer agreed that the work done by the committee creates a special bond between members as well as the overall community, something seldom seen in big towns. 

The Beautification Committee meets once a month via Zoom. Various subcommittees function as a part of the larger group, overseeing projects such as the Deck the Trees Christmas tree contest, the litter sweep and decorating for the holidays. Individuals and smaller groups take care of the 50 container boxes and 20 garden sites around town. 

With Black Mountain's popularity as a tourist destination, Bromer said merchants and business owners in the downtown area have been appreciative of the committee's work. 

"We appreciate everything that the Beautification Committee does to make our town beautiful," said Melisa Pressley, branch manager of the Black Mountain Public Library. 

Among other responsibilities, the Beautification Committee plants flowers and maintains other vegetation around town.

Seed Money Award enters its seventh year 

The Beautification Committee, founded 22 years ago, recently announced another year of its Seed Money Award, a grant for locals groups to engage in gardening projects. 

The Seed Money Award has funded gardening projects for local groups and organizations for seven years. Applications can cover a variety of projects under the basic gardening premise, according to Chamberlain. 

The award money comes from proceeds raised at the Black Mountain Garden Show and Sale. The committee has stated that the award shall not exceed $1,500. The deadline for applications is March 14.

With two months to submit applications, the seven award program members carefully go over each submission, choosing three or four awardees receiving different amounts of money depending on the nature of the project. Chamberlain said all the projects are followed up with throughout the process so the whole committee can take pictures and witness the progress. 

"It can't be for landscaping your home," Chamberlain laughed. "It has to be an organization, a business of some sort."

Past recipients of the award include Black Mountain Center for the Arts, the Black Mountain Public Library, the Lakeview Center and Black Mountain Home for Children, Youth and Families among others. 

The Black Mountain Library received $300 from the award in 2020, according to Pressley, the library's branch manager. Since much of the landscaping at the library has lasted since 1968, other plants gradually wilted. The Seed Money Award allowed for the library to plant new rosebushes. 

"The town library board decided to completely replace all of the plantings around the building so we were able to incorporate those rosebushes into the planting," Pressley said. "It was a nice way to commemorate 2020." 

That same year, the Lakeview Center also received funding to improve the building entrance facing the lake. Although not a big project, the money made a significant difference, according to Melinda Polites, the senior center administrator.

Polites said the center didn't require much funding for the project but she was grateful to the Beautification Committee for its help. 

"It was a very easy process," Polites said. "It's not just the center that benefits."

The Beautification Committee maintains the upkeep of gardens all across town.

Past projects and future goals 

Every year, the committee chooses large scale goals to complete.

Last year, Bromer said, the committee put up 10 new containers along Black Mountain Avenue and completely redid a large garden behind the Black Mountain Center for the Arts.

This year, the committee aims to renew and refresh gardens around town with plants put in the ground many years ago. Bromer said the committee continues to consider special projects for the coming year including gardens beside Town Hall and the post office and altering how the committee decorates during the holiday seasons. 

Additionally, the committee is working on upkeep for the seven-year-old road side plant container boxes, according to Bromer. 

"Creating a regular maintenance program for the containers, it's not very exciting but it's something that needs to be done," Bromer said.