Lakewood street corner went from trash, toilets to 'holiday gift for the community'

Oakbrook friends band together to raise funds to beautify dumping ground

Staff writerDecember 30, 2013 

Once littered with garbage, cars for sale, overgrown blackberry bushes and scotch broom, the corner of 87th Avenue Southwest and Onyx Drive leading into Lakewood’s Oakbrook neighborhood is now a point of pride for residents there.

A large, black sign with “Oakbrook” in gold letters is posted on the incline once used as a middle-of-the-night dump for unwanted furniture, including the occasional toilet.

The installation of the sign, two crushed-asphalt walkways and professional landscaping has transformed the busy corner, which connects drivers to Steilacoom Boulevard in the city’s northwest corner.

Oakbrook is located near Western State Hospital and Fort Steilacoom Regional Park, nestled between two golf courses.

The cleanup of the corner that sees roughly 7,000 cars a day testifies to what can be done when a neighborhood comes together.

“It’s been rewarding. It’s been heart-warming,” said Oakbrook resident Lisa Klinkhammer. “To see people stop and care, and give money and support this, is such a huge reward for us.”

Klinkhammer and her husband, Shane, led the beautification effort. They were joined by neighbors and good friends Edwin Nieves and Chere Clark. Another neighbor, Chad Bickle, who owns Greentech Excavation Company, offered his professional expertise.

Together, the five Oakbrook neighbors saw the project through. They started a Facebook page and website, organized cleanup efforts and stood on the corner waving “donate here” signs.

In August, when The News Tribune first wrote about them, they had just under $5,000 in hand to complete what they estimated would be a $10,000 to $15,000 project.

By Dec. 3, that amount had grown to roughly $12,000. That same day the Klinkhammers, Clark, Nieves and Bickle watched as the final phase was completed.

“We just look at this as a great holiday gift for the community,” Klinkhammer said.

She said she wanted the project done before the new year to show how community pride can spur momentum.

Clark, who with her husband Nieves joined the Klinkhammers on the corner Dec. 3, said the effort brought neighbors together to accomplish something of “enduring value.” As a long-time Army wife — her husband is now retired — Clark said she’d never felt like part of a community, until now.

“I think with any project like this, when it’s all-volunteer and with donations, you don’t know what to expect,” Clark said.

Klinkhammer spearheaded the project because she was tired of seeing the lackluster corner and worried about pedestrian safety. She and her neighbors wanted the city of Lakewood to put sidewalks along the busy road; when that failed, they set out on their own.

The lack of residential sidewalks and bike lanes is evidence of the area’s development before Lakewood became a city in 1996.

Part of the improvement included a recycled asphalt path on 87th Avenue and down Onyx Drive. The new walkway offers dedicated space for pedestrians and cyclists.

Landscapers from Father Nature Landscapes of Tacoma worked with Bickle’s Greentech to install lighting, an irrigation system and a mix of hardy plants. Residents will have to help maintain plants and make sure any vandalism or litter is quickly removed.

Klinkhammer hopes the improvements to the corner will trickle into the winding residential streets that feed the busy thoroughfare.

“I hope it creates inspiration for other communities,” she said.

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467
brynn.grimley@thenewstribune.com

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