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GROW comes together to celebrate final event

Posted 9/19/2012

Organization’s efforts have made highway beautification a state priority

After 15 years of planning, planting and changing the way Nevada designs its freeways, Gardeners Reclaiming Our Waysides (GROW) will come together one last time on Sept. 22 at the Governor’s Mansion for an Appreciation Celebration. The event will celebrate GROW’s members and volunteers for their 15-year effort to landscape the freeways of Nevada.

In fall 1997, before the Carson City Bypass Freeway was created, citizen Mary Fischer was concerned with the impact it would have on Nevada’s historic capital. The freeway would have slopes as high as 20 feet in the air and obscure views of the surrounding mountains with potentially weed-filled slopes.

Fischer decided to take matters into her own hands and hired a landscape architect to design a landscape plan along the 9-mile freeway. The plan would include highway beautification, including Great Basin plants on the drier, sunnier slopes facing south and west, and Sierra plants on the cooler slopes facing east and north.

Fischer, also a Master Gardener, presented the plan for a landscaped freeway to a Master Gardener class sponsored by University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Many classmates became interested in the plan and the movement became known as GROW.

As a nonprofit organization, GROW’s mission was to ensure the establishment of a low-maintenance, water-efficient landscape on the slopes, interchanges, and gateways of the Carson City Freeway using native plants. The vision also grew into including steel statuary and artistic enhancements, leading to the theme “History in Motion” to be adopted.

For many years, GROW supporters held meetings and wrote several grant proposals for highway beautification funding. In 2002, the Nevada Stage Legislature passed a bill allotting 3 percent of state highway funding for highway landscape and aesthetics.

In 2002, Nevada Department of Transportation, Carson City Board of Supervisors and GROW finalized a landscape plan for Phase I of the Carson City Freeway. Sen. Harry Reid also approved GROW’s request for grant funds from the Federal Highway Administration under the Transportation Equity Act. The bill was passed by Congress and signed into law Aug. 10, 2005, by President George W. Bush. Over the years, GROW was able to collect $2.5 million in funding.

What had once been a dream for Fischer and GROW supporters had finally been realized. GROW has been a grassroots organization that not only transformed the Carson City Freeway, but also changed the way the state designs and funds all freeways. The rest of the landscape phases will be funded by the state and will continue on with GROW’s design plan.

The Appreciation Celebration on Sept.22 will be GROW’s final event.

Marie Bresch, assistant director at GROW, said the event will be the organization’s last because they have accomplished what they set out to do.

“We completed our dream,” Bresch said. “Once it’s done it’s done. GROW was very instrumental into creating multi-use path along the freeway. We’re extremely excited about it being finished. It has changed our lives into something worthwhile and has been a wonderful thing."

For more information about GROW, visit www.growinc.org or contact Mary Fischer at 775-882-6028

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