Curb Appeal

Written by I.R.C.. Posted in Earth Matters Columns

Man-made landscapes do not have to be ugly. To prove that point, several municipalities in Blair County are embarking on a unique program to help folks take the first step toward improving their curb appeal. Especially in older communities and neighborhoods, some sidewalks and streetscapes are showing their age. The beauty of brick sidewalks and cut stone curbs can become transformed into deformed messes after decades of wear and frost heaving.
With this in mind, the Intermunicipal Relations Committee (IRC) Council of Governments pursued and secured grant funding to assist property owners with the materials needed to improve those aging streetscapes.

If you can provide some “sweat equity”, the IRC can provide some of the materials you’ll need to dress up your street-side tree well or level out that old brick sidewalk. All you have to do is fill out a one page application explaining what you intend to do. A small deposit will be required if you win one of the mini-grants, but the deposit will be returned if you attend a brief workshop and complete your project as proposed.

One workshop will help residents better understand proper tree trimming practices and another will provide helpful hints on relaying a brick sidewalk. Lowes, the national sponsor of the grant program through Keep America Beautiful, will host the workshops. The program will not be limited, however, to brick sidewalk renovations. Any sidewalk cleanup or tree well weeding and planting project could qualify for assistance. A limited number of street trees will be available in at least one of the municipalities through their Shade Tree Commission.

So here is what is available. Folks with brick sidewalks can get stone dust for the base under the bricks and sand to secure the bricks in place after they are set. It’s hoped that folks will tear up sections of their walk that is uneven, lay down a base, set the bricks on that base and fill in with sand.
If you want to renovate or spruce up a street tree well, free mulch will be available for qualifying homeowners or residents. Dig out any weeds and mulch around the trees. We hope to encourage proper tree pruning as part of this effort, too.

This is also a great time to remind folks that there is a right and a wrong way to trim a tree. Rather than just hacking away at branches that are in the way, look for the junction where a branch begins. This means that it often doesn’t look like the tree was even trimmed and, more importantly, it means the tree has a better chance of healing. This decreases the chances of disease or rot that could damage, or even kill, the tree. A trip to the library or an internet search on proper tree trimming can tell you more.

While it’s our hope that this mini-grant program will encourage folks to undertake some do-it-yourself work, some limited labor assistance may be available for those with disabilities or other hardships that prevent them from doing all the work. Simply note that on the application form.

Details are available on the IRC website,, or can be picked up at the IRC office at 100 Chief Logan Circle in Altoona or requested by phone at 942-7472 or e-mail, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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