As the never-ending winter weather continues into yet another winter weather advisory, Boards, Managers and Community Members, by now are looking forward to spring and what that means for your community. Spring often brings a sense of renewal and energy to everyone in the community. This energy is great for Boards and Committees to use to their advantage to help foster a sense of community amongst neighbors.
One of my favorite events in community associations is an Annual Community Clean-Up Day. This is an easy event that any community can put together without a lot of work. All you need is a few groups of people, depending on the community size, to walk the community looking for any trash or debris that may have accumulated throughout the winter. Areas such as wood lines, drainage ditches, near storm drains, end of parking lots, and areas around the pool house, if you have one. For these events I have often asked the community’s landscaper or another community partner to donate gloves and trash bags and even arrangements for trash to be hauled away at days end. This event can be taken a step further with providing a dumpster for community members to discard some of their own accumulated winter items for their own spring cleaning. This does take a little policing because there are often limitations on what the trash haulers allow in the dumpster. Some jurisdictions will give trash haulers a reduced tipping fee for dumpsters for community clean ups which will reduce the cost of the event. Community volunteers may consider setting up near the dumpster to obtain or verify member contact information for future communication of events.
Another great event can be a small beatification project for the community, such as installing spring flowers around a pool house or even helping to create a new landscaping bed. Some jurisdictions in the area even offer free or reduced costs on trees and plants for non-profit organizations.
Aside from the community clean-up and small landscaping projects, some items are best left up to the professionals. Boards and Management should begin walking the grounds of the community in preparation for the spring growing season. These walks can be used to look for upcoming projects as well as the status of any repairs from the previous year to see how they are functioning.
From the landscaping perspective, any trees near homes should be inspected for any obvious signs of distress such as cracking, leaning, or any broken branches still hung up in the tree. These in particular should be addressed before they start leafing out as it will be harder to see from the ground. Leaning and/or cracking trees should be addressed with your landscaper or arborist right away, before they start leafing out due to the weight and the potential for those leaves to catch the wind and topple.
Asphalt should be walked to inspect for potholes, cracking or surface failure with the forming of “alligator cracking”. This also give you an opportunity to see if the snow plows have pushed snow too far and accidentally tore up the grass where they piled snow, or if you need to have the winter sand removed from the parking lot. Concrete should be inspected for any trip hazards or any damage from ice-melt chemicals that may have been inadvertently put down on the concrete.
The community amenities such as tot lots and benches should be included in these walks. Tot lots should be inspected, for any loose panels, loose railings, cracks in the slides, depth of tot lot mulch, cracks in the swings or swing chains. The best way I have found to test many of these items is to just grab ahold of it and shake it back and forth to see if you can make it move, I may have also gone down a slide or two as well during inspections. Commercial tot lots are so rigid that it can take the force of an adult shaking it to test it.
Community signs should be inspected regularly to ensure they are firmly in place, readable, and relevant. Sometimes snow plows, trash trucks, delivery trucks, even homeowners will back into or hit signs and either not realize it or not report it. Fire Lane signs are the most common that I see being knocked over. All traffic signs should be inspected as well and replaced as needed, you will need to pay attention to who is responsible for a traffic sign. Sometimes it is the locality instead of the Homeowners Association. A good way to tell is if there is a state sticker on the back of the sign, then it is a local government sign and the department of transportation should be contacted for repair or replacement.
Spring is a great time of the year, full of energy, and Boards and Managers should be capitalizing on that sense of energy and getting their community to shine.