The City of McAllen has long prided itself on having superior infrastructure with well laid out streets and drainage that usually avoids the kind of flooding other Rio Grande Valley cities see.
These qualities were the pride and joy of Mayor Othal Brand, who during his 20-year tenure would drive around the city checking for potholes. Beautification has been another source of pride. Keep McAllen Beautiful is a non-profit organization that has been in existence since 1976. The organization has worked closely with the city government to clean up litter and paint old homes among many projects over the years.
McAllen has added a new program to beautify its community, the Community Tool Shed. Local residents are now able to borrow – for free – essential lawn and garden tools to improve the landscaping around their homes. Residents can borrow the tools for up to 72 hours at a time. The city’s goals are to help local residents who don’t have the resources to purchase the yard tools. They are also hoping to inspire them to spruce up their neighborhoods.
“It’s a ripple effect,” said Cesar Rodriguez, the assistant director for the city’s Health and Code Enforcement department. “If you can use these tools to beautify your front yard, it encourages your neighbors to do the same.”
Getting Things Going
The program began with a set of 27 brand new tools. These include lawnmowers, weed eaters, metal rakes, power washers, wheelbarrows and garden shovels. With proof of residency and a form, residents may check out the tools at 1516 N. 15th Street in McAllen
The Community Tool Shed is modeled after similar programs in San Antonio, Dallas and El Paso. It kicked off in late July on a sun-splashed morning in front of the old McAllen City Hall, which is now called the McAllen Development Center on North 15th. City officials gathered to announce and launch the program with an array of lawn tools and equipment all around them.
“We believe this program is going to create community engagement while improving compliance with city codes,” said Steve Kotsatos, the director of the McAllen Health & Code Department. “We are creating a program that provides our residents with the resources to help them take care of their products.”
The new program allows residents to borrow equipment on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and for up to three days. Borrowers must be at least 18 years of age and show proof of McAllen residency.
“The goal is to not only have a beautiful home, but a beautiful neighborhood,” Kotsatos said. “It may be that people may want to do the work but don’t have the tools. This kind of program can help them.”
The program is getting off to a modest start in the number of tools available. With McAllen’s track record with beautification projects, city officials expect the program to grow and reach neighborhoods throughout the city.