SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – When Chris and Shelly Holley bought their “fixer-upper” on Cottage Avenue in Aug. 2016, the house had been vacant for more than six years.
“The windows were boarded up, there was junk everywhere,” sighed Shelly Holley, remembering the mess. “We spent the first six months just trying to clean it out and fix the basic systems.”
“Everything of any value had been torn out or stolen,” added Chris Holley. “Someone even stole the cast iron sewer pipe!”
The couple, armed with skills from construction trades and past rehab projects, rolled up their sleeves and got to work. “By the time spring came and we heard about the Curb Appeal Challenge, we were ready to get outside and work on the landscaping,” said Shelly Holley. “We were so eager to make the yard into something attractive.” Sitting on the front stoop of their now tidy home on a sunny afternoon, she smiled at the abundant floral border. “Chris just kept fertilizing the flowers and now they’re going crazy.”
“The best thing about this project is how it connects people,” she continued. “Our neighbors have been sharing plants and seeds with us. People driving by stop and comment about how nice it looks. One man stopped and told us we had really made a huge improvement in our neighborhood – and he thanked us.”
The Curb Appeal Challenge was organized by a number of community groups in the spring of 2017 to urge homeowners to make improvements to the outside of their property and was described as “a friendly competition among neighbors, [to] provide positive action for Springfield, and help build community spirit and pride” by Springfield Select Board member Mike Martin, who grew up in Springfield.
Trish and Shaun Sliker, whose project involved beautifying their Union Street fence line with two large masonry planting beds, were excited by the community response to their handiwork.
“Shaun did all the work himself,” said Sliker, “and he was constantly encouraged by people driving by to check up on the project. People offered us plants—they told us about their own projects. It was great!”
The Slikers are already planning their Curb Appeal project for next year: painting the exterior of their house.
“A contest is good motivation,” laughed Sliker. “It can help kick start something you really need to do anyway. And it gets the whole neighborhood involved.”
Char Osterlund, whose Summer Street garden border is a Curb Appeal challenger, echoed the sentiments of the other contestants.
“I entered this gardening project to get into the spirit of community,” Osterlund said, “and I can’t believe how many people have stopped to comment and encourage me. Neighbors have shared plants and ideas. It’s been such a positive activity.”
More than 25 contestants paid a small fee and submitted photos of the “before” project areas to enter the contest. Incentives such as discounts from local merchants and free consultation with realtors and landscapers were also available. A panel of judges from neighboring towns will choose three winners of the challenge and cash prizes will be awarded at a ceremony on Sept. 16.
The Curb Appeal Challenge is a joint effort sponsored by Muse & Associates Real Estate, Union/Park Neighborhood Association, Bibens Home Center, Woodbury’s Florist, Sherwin-Williams Paints, Mascoma Savings Bank, Claremont Savings Bank, the Town of Springfield and the Springfield Reporter.