Avary Skaug and Dana Tolbert are spending their summer vacation doing what other kids might call “a chore.”
But no one’s forcing the Puyallup teens to clean up the neighborhood traffic circle at 18th Street and Fourth Avenue.
“We thought it was an eyesore,” Tolbert said. “It’s kind of, like, introducing our neighborhood and it’s kind of run down and gross.”
Tolbert, 14, and Skaug, 13, live nearby and have known each other since Tolbert moved into the neighborhood two years ago. Tolbert is home schooled and Skaug goes to Aylen Junior High School. The two see each other almost every day, especially in the summer, riding their bikes around the neighborhood.
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In July, Tolbert brought up the idea of cleaning the traffic circle. Skaug agreed.
With rakes, shovels and a lot of time, they set to work weeding the plants that were tall and overgrown, making it difficult for drivers to see.
“They were kind of just taking over everything and there wasn’t really a purpose for them,” Skaug said. “There was mostly grass and dead moss.”
A bag of needles found among the plants was tested for heroine by the police, added Dana’s mother, Hanna.
The neighbors started to take notice of Skaug and Tolbert shortly after they started their work.
“There was this guy that said, ‘How did you get stuck with this job?’” Skaug said.
Even their parents were getting questioned.
“I had people ask, ‘Are you paying them to do that, or are they being punished?’” said Tinell Skaug, Avary’s mother.
But the traffic circle had been on the minds of many residents.
“I know a couple of neighbors have been saying that they’ve been meaning to get this done, that it’s kind of run down but they don’t have the time,” Tolbert said.
Another neighbor donated to the teen’s effort.
“He walked up and kind of startled us at first,” Skaug said. “He just said we’re doing a great job and asked us why we’re doing it and gave us each $20.”
The traffic circle was built about 2005, according to the city. Typically, neighborhoods are encouraged to maintain them. The city steps in only in the event of safety concerns, such as blocking the roadway. The same rules apply to larger medians on busier arterial roads, where it’s easier to block traffic.
The city has no problem with Skaug and Tolbert’s project and is happy with their work, said Ken Davies, Puyallup’s street supervisor.
“What they did looks great to me,” he said.
The girls used their $40 donation to buy and lay compost, where they plan to plant flowers. They’re looking to hang up flyers about the project to collect more money. Neighbors have pledged another $30.
“This is bringing a smile to everybody’s face that drives by,” Hanna Tolbert said.
“These girls are always coming up with different fun activities and loving our neighbors and our neighborhood,” Tinell Skaug added. “That’s kind of how they’re both wired.”