By now, most of us have checked all the usual suspects off our lists: slippers for Grandma, books for all the nieces and nephews, and a squeaky toy for the dog. But have you ever considered how to share the holiday spirit with your neighbors? Whether you squeeze it in to your holiday break, or start planning now for a project once the weather is a little less frightful, we have a few ideas for inexpensive neighborhood spruce-ups that are sure to bring cheer to your block:
Set Up a Pop-Up Sidewalk Stop
Do you see people walking or bicycling through your neighborhood on their way to work? It’s a cold season for active commuting, and folks on foot can likely use a little encouragement. Offer them a hot chocolate and a cheerful “good morning!” You could really go all-out and bake a batch of cookies, or ask a local bakery for a doughnut donation. Or, contact your neighborhood school and hand out stickers to kids who are walking or riding to school. Really, the opportunities are endless– get creative, meet your neighbors, and make someone’s day! Tip: get the neighborhood association involved. They can help you get snack donations and publicize your little event.
Conduct a Sidewalk Assessment
Have you ever tripped over a crack in the sidewalk while out for a stroll in around the block? Or hobbled a stroller up and over a curb that lacks an ADA ramp? It’s likely you’re not the only one in your community that has struggled with those broken or incomplete sidewalks. KCMO recently passed the GO Bond, which funds sidewalks and sidewalk repairs throughout the city. Take a walk around the block with a note pad and a camera, and keep your neighbors with disabilities in mind. Take pictures of cracked or missing sidewalks, or sidewalks that may be inaccessible to due to a lack of ADA ramps or light poles in the middle of the walkway. Write down the location of these problems and submit them to www.kcmo.gov/311. According to the city’s website, “the requests will be noted by the sidewalk inspection group and it will be included in the City’s systematic citywide inspection process.” Tip: these projects will take a while to complete, but you can track the city’s progress with the report number you receive when you submit your request.
Clear the Sidewalks and Bike Lanes
Whether it’s fallen leaves or snow and ice, winter sure seems to determined to cover our lanes of travel, and these seasonal carpets can prove to be hazardous for folks on foot, wheelchair, bike, or scooter. In KCMO and many other communities in the metro, property owners are responsible for sidewalk maintenance, but sometimes it can be tough to clear a sidewalk quickly. So if you have a shovel, a strong back and some free time, clear your neighbor’s area too. Or introduce some friendly holiday competition and challenge your neighbors to a sidewalk-clearing competition!
Bike lanes are generally the city’s responsibility, but taking rake to the leaf litter is a nice gesture after a storm. Tip: many communities have free or low-cost yard waste drop off. Learn about KCMO’s here.
Organize a Bulky-Item Pickup
Maybe Thanksgiving’s cranberry sauce was the absolute last straw for your dining room carpet, and your neighbor’s trusty refrigerator finally bit the dust. Regular trash service won’t accept such large items, but KCMO offers its residents free bulky-item collection appointments. Get the whole block together for a bit of pre-holiday purging and get rid of the broken treadmills that are taking up space in your basements. Find more information and make an appointment by calling 311 or visiting the city’s website. Tip: you can also rent a dumpster for only $60 through the Neighborhood Clean Up Assistance Program!
The holiday season is full of Christmas trees and Yule logs, but you can give your block another leafy gift: street trees! The Heartland Tree Alliance is ready to plant trees in your neighborhood, and all you have to do is ask. Trained arborists will assess your proposed planting area and decide if it’s appropriate for the program. Then they will select the trees and help you plan a volunteer planting event. This is a fun time for the neighborhood to work together for the health of their street– street trees provide traffic calming, filter air pollution, intercept rainfall, and reduce energy costs in nearby buildings. Tip: the HTA prefers to plant trees in groups, so the whole process is likely to move faster if you organize your neighbors to put in a larger tree request.
BONUS: Join BikeWalkKC
BikeWalkKC’s mission is to redefine our streets as places for people to create a culture of active living. We are a member-supported non-profit that works with municipalities, neighborhood organizations, and other non-profits to improve conditions for getting around by chair, feet, and bike. Join the movement!
It’s always the right season to be neighborly, but the holidays are as good an excuse as any to go the extra mile for the people on your block. A healthy neighborhood is vibrant, active, and connected! Need more information to get you started? Have more ideas for spreading goodwill? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!