Glenville hopes to turn disaster into opportunity

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 11, 2001

GLENVILLE – In a few years, Glenville might look back on the tornado of 2001 as a blessing rather than a curse.

Friday, May 11, 2001

GLENVILLE – In a few years, Glenville might look back on the tornado of 2001 as a blessing rather than a curse.

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Invigorated residents now envision turning a vacant lot into a park, creating a community garden where a run-down house once stood, planting new varieties of trees, and sprucing up Main Street with flowers and decorative lights.

The tornado that destroyed eight businesses and six homes managed to pick at least two structures that leaders already wanted out of the way.

The Glenville Women of Today, in a beautification plan drafted before the disaster, recommended removal of an old building and stack of wood across from the Soap Deli on Main Street.

&uot;That’s taken care of, isn’t it?&uot; said Charlotte Johnson, to the laughter of the 30 or so in attendance at a beautification meeting Thursday night.

Another proposal involved adding a vegetable stand or citizen’s garden across the street from Stan’s Market. A small house stood there until last week.

&uot;That’s gone, too,&uot; Johnson said.

Besides saving on demolition costs, the tornado has helped drum up support for the beautification effort. Boosters hope to raise money for the projects through civic fundraisers, donations and sales of a May Day Tornado video. Sherry Adams is working on compiling the video from residents’ tapes and photos, and an audio-visual expert has offered to donate his time to make the tapes.

Johnson even sent a letter to a multimillionaire businessman who employs a friend, and who donates much of his cash to worthy causes. She told him of the tornado and the city’s needs.

&uot;This is probably the longest shot I’ve ever tried,&uot; Johnson said Thursday. &uot;… Now, everyone go home and pray.&uot;

Other help will come from closer to home. Glenville businessman Tony Trow said Ken Nelson of Albert Lea has offered free pine, fir and walnut trees from his tree farm to help replant the city park.

&uot;He said, within reason, we can have all the trees we want,&uot; Trow said, to loud applause from the audience. &uot;… (Nelson is) my first candidate for county treasure.&uot;

Organizations from Lutheran Brotherhood to the Initiative Fund have also offered to help.

There’s plenty to do. Other ideas mentioned Thursday ranged from building a band shell in the park to adopting a city flower and planting it all over town.

Some, however, were wary of taking on too much at once – especially since many are still worried about cleaning up their own damaged property.

To avoid spreading its efforts too thin, the group decided to focus on two projects first: Replacing fallen trees and developing a new gathering place in an empty lot between Stan’s and the Senior Citizen Center on Main.

Many red maples were left standing after the storm, but others were torn out, including as many as nine in the city park. In addition to free trees from Nelson, others mentioned that an area nursery has offered a discount on trees for Glenville.

Mary Lou Jirik, Johnson’s sister and a master gardener, said the city should consider planting gingko trees along Main Street, because they survive well in this climate and turn a beautiful golden color in the fall.

The other immediate project would add flower beds, trees, tables and benches in the empty lot next to the senior center. The city already has donated the lot, which now has only two old picnic tables, to the civic clubs.

Trow suggested financing the project by engraving concrete tiles with names and laying them down as a sidewalk in the new park.

&uot;If everybody would buy a couple of those in honor of their parents or whatever, for $10 apiece, we’d only need 900-1,000 of those,&uot; he said.H &uot;I think we could put it together in a hurry,&uot; he said. &uot;I think it would be a definite asset to the town.&uot;