Newington Mayor Beth DelBuono was driving through New Britain recently and took notice of what an attractive city it has become. This got her thinking about Newington’s beauty and how it might be enhanced to stand out to visitors and residents alike.
“We have a lovely town…but we do have some areas that could use some sprucing up, so to speak,” the mayor told the Town Council at its meeting last Tuesday night. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could come up with some inexpensive, low-cost or no-cost ways to improve some high traffic areas in town? So people driving through or residents would be able to see some improvements and know our town is a great place to visit as well as live.”
Elected officials mulled over the idea of forming a beautification committee, looking at examples from other towns where such groups lead aesthetically-pleasing projects.
They opted against it, however, as it is difficult to find volunteers willing to put in the time and effort it takes to serve on a town commission.
“Rather than establishing a committee, I think this should be a community-wide effort,” Deputy Mayor Gail Budrejko said. “I’d like to reach out to the community and say, ‘hey, this is our 150th anniversary of Newington. Where are some places you drive by every day and would like to see a park bench or some flowers?”
Minority Leader Carol Anest suggested putting the task in the hands of Newington Parks and Grounds staff, who might solicit input from community members willing to contribute to improvement projects around town.
“Let certain groups or businesses in town take care of certain spots,” Anest said. “I’m envisioning more of an Adopt a Roadway or Area program than an actual committee. I think it would be such a perk for our town, especially to attract new development.”
Town Manager Keith Chapman suggested the town’s economic development commission be involved as well.
“This would be a way to involve the business community,” he said.
Beautifying the town could go well beyond a flower bed next to the “Welcome to Newington” sign, as Councilor Dave Nagel pointed out.
“Depending on the spot, there may be other things that could be more creative,” Nagel said. “We should be open to more than just plants and flowers and benches.”
New Britain unveiled its eye-catching yellow Beehive Bridge over Main Street in 2019, visible to traffic below on Route 72. This project was led by Mayor Erin Stewart and her administration. In addition, the Walnut Hill Rose Garden draws visitors from around the state.
Surrounding towns have their own traditions.
Farmington is known for its Holiday Kissing Balls around Unionville Center and on the DiPietro Memorial Bridge. These are sponsored by local families and businesses. In the spring and summer, bundles of mistletoe are interchanged with hanging flower baskets by the Farmington Garden Club.
In Bristol, the city’s Arts and Culture Commission led a project in 2018 and 2019 it dubbed, “Dear Bristol.” Traffic boxes around the city were painted with historical and beloved Bristol imagery.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.