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Archives for June 17, 2013

Park Board discusses beer garden


The Brazil Park and Recreation Board met for its regular monthly meeting Tuesday in the City Hall Council Chambers.

After the reading of last month’s minutes and the treasurer’s report, Park Superintendent Bill Houck reported several trees have been cut down in city parks for safety purposes. Houck also reported hay cutting and weed spraying has been done in city parks. Additionally, Houck said several community members have been helping with landscaping around parks.

Next, board President Ruthann Jeffries reported the city pool at Forest Park has had nice crowds since it opened May 28. Jeffries said because Clay Community Schools begins classes again Aug. 12, the pool with close on Aug. 11.

The board then heard from representatives of the Popcorn Festival of Clay County, who requested a beer and wine garden at this year’s Popcorn Festival.

Festival board member Evelyn Brown requested permission to have beer and wine tents during the Friday and Saturday of the Popcorn Festival from 4-9:30 p.m., while bands perform. The tents would be set up in the northeast corner of the park near the band shell.

Brown said beer and wine sales would be cut off an hour before the bands finish performing, likely between 9-9:30 p.m.

Brown said she has spoken to representatives from the Terre Haute Parks Department, the Clay County Sheriff’s Department, the Brazil Police Department and more about her idea. Brown has also gathered information from other festivals and events in the surrounding area and in Ohio about how they do alcohol sales at their events.

Brown spoke with the board extensively about her ideas to make the beer and wine garden safe for everyone at the festival.

“We would hire extra security,” Brown said. “We’d have fencing, we’d have excise on the spot. No one could just say, ‘I want to go get some drinks.’ They’d have to go through the fencing, get their ID checked and get tickets.”

Brown said she and the other security at the event would take extra precaution to make sure no one gets drunk.

“It is a family event,” Brown said. “We don’t want anyone to get drunk. We will do everything we can. It’s going to be locked down tight. If it doesn’t work and causes a problem, we’ll shut it down and never do it again in the future.”

Brown said the idea for the beer and wine garden has come from several community members who have approached her, saying they wish they could listen to live music in the park with a beer.

“I don’t feel like we are doing anything except including more families,” Brown said. “We expect them to act the way they should act. And no one has to go there. We aren’t forcing anybody to have a beer, it would just be offered.”

Board member Tokie Kesler asked Brown if those drinking at the event would be able to wander around the park.

“Anyone drinking can’t go out of the fenced in area,” Brown said. “They can’t go out at all or leave with alcohol in their hands.”

Jeffries read from the city by-laws concerning alcohol in the parks, which states: “It shall be unlawful for any person to be intoxicated or under the influence or effect of narcotics or to use alcohol or narcotics in any park, playground, community building, swimming, wading pool or beach or other premises or places under the jurisdiction or controls of the Board of Parks and Recreation without the permission of the Board.”

Jeffries said her concern was if she voted for the Popcorn Festival to allow a beer and wine garden, she would be opening up other events to do the same.

“I worry about what kind of message I’d be sending if I allow one group to do it and one group not to do it,” Jeffries said.

Brown assured Jeffries that the work the festival members have to do in order to allow alcohol at the event, they’ve had to do a lot of work.

“This is a big responsibility and I’ve done my homework,” Brown said. “Not every group is going to want to jump through all these hoops and go to all this trouble.”

Jeffries said one member of a softball league has recently been kicked off the league for drinking in the park.

“In all of our contracts, with every group, we tell them they cannot have alcohol in the park,” Jeffries said. “I worry about what kind of a message I’d be sending to them if I tell them they can’t drink while they’re playing softball, but that it’s ok for your group to come in and sell alcohol. I don’t think that’s fair.”

Brown’s response to Jeffries was that the drinking at the beer and wine garden would be controlled.

Houck stepped away from his position on the board, and, speaking as a citizen, said he felt the idea was the “most ridiculous idea” he’d ever heard.

“I have a lot of opposition to this,” Houck said. “I totally am against it. We have such a traffic issue over there now with people who are acutely aware of what they’re doing, so it will be worse for those inebriated. There’s traffic bumper to bumper and kids running in and out. Ninety percent of the people around here are going to be against this and you know it.”

Houck was also concerned that if anything goes wrong should the idea be passed, the Park Board will be blamed for it.

After much discussion, the board agreed to table to the issue until next month’s meeting.

In other meeting news, the board:

* Discussed camera options for security in city parks, and

* Approved the purchase of a small tractor vehicle for Craig Park.

The Park and Recreation Board meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m.

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What’s that western scrub-jay doing, anyway?

What’s that western scrub-jay doing, anyway?

An odd-looking western scrub-jay. Photo by Dave Strauss


Dave Strauss writes in with a question about this rather tall jay: “I have often seen and photographed western scrub-jays, but this one seems to have odd proportions. The head and neck appear large compared to the body. Does this look like normal variation, or does it appear to be unusual for some other reason? I thought it might be a hybrid bird.”

Good eye for unusual posture, Dave!

My first thought was: Now that’s an alert bird! Probably this animal is stretching itself out vertically to get a better overhead view of some potential invertebrate lunch on the ground

I checked with David Herlocker, of the Marin County Open Space District, one of our region’s best all-around naturalists. He confirmed my hunch: “I think your assumption is spot on – just an alert posture. I think scrub-jays can look positively human sometimes, something about the proportion of the head size and the neck (when extended like this). Of course, they’re corvids which means they are smarter than we are, so it’s easy to imagine some articulate internal dialogue going on in there.”

I like that! The intelligence of corvids (crows and jays and relations) comes up now and then in our work here. Our next issue has a feature on Butano State Park, where scientist Portia Halbert has been leading a couple of efforts to trick crows and especially Steller’s jays into not eating the eggs of endangered marbled murrelets, and convincing us not to leave food scraps that make the crows and jays more likely to stick around the forest.

On a more positive note, back in 2007, Judith Larner Lowry wrote a delightful feature for us on the Landscaping Ideas of Jays. Jays eat acorns but, more importantly, they stash them away for later. You can visit the new Oakland Museum science gallery and see a column of acorns — more than 4,000 of them — that represent a year’s caching of one bird. These bird’s have such remarkable memories for their caches that a scholar at UC Davis has set up extensive lab experiments to test them (we interviewed him in our 2007 piece “Finding the Stash“). But jays aren’t infallible, and that’s good for oaks. Some of the forgotten acorns go on to become trees. And that’s one way oaks spread across the landscape.

So next time you’re in an oak woodland, thank a jay. And next time you’re in the redwoods, be sure to pack out all your leftovers.


Nature news junkie? Get our weekly news digest!

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Greg McNicol, UTEP Campus transformation

The Campus Transformation Project under way at the University of Texas at El Paso is a $25-million makeover of huge proportions and innumerable steps and timelines.

Every week, representatives from 11 UTEP offices meet to discuss everything from the communications plans to accessibility for students with disabilities.

One man manages to stay on top of it all. When it comes to knowing what comes next and why, Greg McNicol, AIA, associate vice resident for business affairs, is the man with the plan.

With 33 years of experience as an architect in higher education, McNicol knows the ropes; he has been at UTEP since 2001. His El Paso roots run deep: he grew up here and graduated from Eastwood High School. His father and grandfather ran McNicol Electronics in the Five Points area from 1946 to 2006.

After graduating from Texas Tech, he lived in Austin for 21 years while working on various projects in the University of Texas System. When he left Austin, he was working with five campuses: UT-Arlington, UT-Dallas, UT-Permian Basin, UTEP and Southwest Medical Center in Dallas. He says he’s very glad to be back in El Paso and he loves his job.

He and his wife Becky, his high school sweetheart, have a son in Phoenix and a daughter in Ann Arbor. He has a brother in El Paso who is retiring from elementary school coaching. But at 59, McNicol says he is far from interested in retiring.

“I’m having too much fun!” he laughs.

To follow the Campus Transformation, visit

El Paso Inc. caught up with McNicol in his office to find out more about the project, including parking problems, how the look of a campus affects recruiting and why some 1960s buildings have no front doors.

Q: Architects work with so many different aspects of buildings – functional, artistic, pragmatic even psychological. Does the architecture and landscape of a campus affect the student and faculty experience?

I do think it affects them. Some college buildings, especially from the ‘60s that had a style of architecture of the time, are cold and stark and I can’t help but wonder what that effect was on students. It was almost done on purpose.

There was a mentality that you didn’t want people to come together, so if you don’t make a front door very predominant – it’s just a big block – they couldn’t complain or rally because you can’t find the front door. The older buildings of the 1960s don’t create an environment where people can come together.

Most of our buildings don’t do that, but Fox Fine Arts has that a little bit. Where’s the front door? There is no front door. It has three departments and you have to know your way around to find the department chairs. It’s designed that way.

Since then, most of us have realized that’s not a good thing. The environment that you live in helps give you a sense of place and that you belong. And that’s important. For instance, we have gone back on the Engineering Building and put an addition on the building and we moved the dean and faculty offices to the first floor from offices in the middle of the building with no windows.

That started to tie the engineering program back to the street and back to the people. That new courtyard is suddenly not just a place to pass through, but a place to gather. We’re starting to shift and look at our landscaping and how do we tie that back to our buildings.

Q: Do you think the appearance of campus helps in such areas as recruiting?

At the end of the day, it’s about the first impression. When you first arrive at any campus, you start to formulate “Does it feel right? Does it feel comfortable? Do I feel like I could belong here?”

For instance, I think the Larry K. Durham Center does a great job of recruiting athletes. When they show them the facility, it’s probably the best weight room with a view anywhere. And that’s got to help with recruiting; the same first impression will help in other places.

Q: One of the biggest changes will be converting streets and parking lots to a new Centennial Plaza green space linking the Union and the Administration, Geological Sciences, and Psychology buildings. Pedestrian-centered central campuses are very popular at many colleges – how did the idea come about here?

If you look back at the UTEP master plan from 2002, it includes some images of the concept of closing the campus. We were starting to understand the challenges we were having and the conflicts between pedestrian and vehicular traffic. About 10 years ago, I sat down with Dr. Diana Natalicio and we discussed the concept. Could we experiment and close the campus for the summer just to see what that would be like?

The long and short of it was we weren’t ready yet. We didn’t have the rest of the pieces in place around it to make it happen. We can’t ignore the vehicles; we just had to find alternative solutions for them. Back then, there were three basic parking permits and a lot of hunting was going on – people driving around different parking lots. Students would circle for 15 or 30 minutes and we needed to better manage it.

Part of that solution was to build parking lots and assign people to them. That launched the first series of projects like the Sun Bowl Garage and the Schuster parking.

Then about two years ago, 18 months ago, we started in earnest to want to develop images of what the campus would look like in the direction we wanted to take it. We wanted to get more details in the master plans from 2002 and 2011. We had some ideas, but they weren’t defined yet.

We put out a request for qualifications and interviewed Lake/Flato and Christy Ten Eyck of Ten Eyck Landscape Architects to come in. We just loved their concepts and that spurred the next step when we got it added to the capital improvement plan and launched the fundraising activities.

Q: Did Ten Eyck’s work at Arizona State Polytechnic, another big campus, influence the decision?

It did because she seems to have that real strong connection to a desert environment. My son lives in the Chandler area so when we were visiting him, we went by that campus and my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed walking through it and realizing that some of where we were walking was an old street and an old Air Force base that were now gone. It reminds you that, yes, you’re in a desert, it’s an embellished desert setting, but it’s still a desert.

The birds, and the insects, you could just see that the desert was alive, in an awesome way.

You just said, “Wow, this place is kind of amazing.” There were subtleties and surprises and the way they recycled materials was another big hit for us, too. We really liked that concept. We’ve been pretty earnest about not sending stuff to the dump whenever we can. We liked how she reincorporated waste materials back into the project. That absolutely drove who we selected.

When you look at that arroyo at Arizona State, it looks like it’s been there forever. It’s a combination of using a variety of things so it looks nature-like – that’s a learned skill. Let’s go ahead and grab somebody who figured it out and worked with a contractor in Mesa to pull it off.

Q: Will local contractors carry out the UTEP plan?

CF Jordan is our construction manager at risk. He has to bid out all the pieces and manage it. Right now that we’re focused on utilities – that’s obviously the first step.

Some of those utility lines are not leaking right now, but they have had a long life in the ground; the time to replace them is now. Some are relocated to areas that will be easier for us to maintain in the future.

We’re fine-tuning what I call the engines to get ready for the above-the-ground work.

Q: When will the actual planting begin?

We’re hoping by January or February. Out for bid on the street right now is the trees. In a nice way, I want to jump ahead of everyone else. I don’t want to get stuck with smaller caliber trees than we needed. We have a bid proposal out to local nurseries to grow our trees and reserve them for us. There’s a balance: If the tree is too big, there’s a high probability of not transplanting well.

Q: I’ve asked you before about your favorite feature in the Campus Transformation, but you don’t want to commit! However, you do seem to favor the Lhakhang, the beautiful Bhutanese shrine given to the people of the United States in 2008 after Bhutan’s participation in the Smithsonian Institution’s Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., which will be a focal point of the new Centennial Plaza.

It’s a gift of friendship from His Majesty, a gift from one country to another. That’s why I wanted to make sure we were respectful of their building customs. We wanted to situate it in a way that they were comfortable with. One of the things that is important in their culture is the orientation of the front door, so we worked with the architect from Bhutan to shift it a few degrees to the east.

Our relationship to Bhutan is one of the unique things about UTEP. It allows us to go to another level. I’m learning a little bit about how they put a building together. In fact we have a guide called “Auspicious Astrological Aspects in Building Construction.” As an architect, I have to go deeper and learn about their culture.

Q: Why did you want to be an architect?

The artistic thing in the background is that I like to create and the biggest thing you can create is a building. Maybe it’s a West Texas thing – bigger is better. I am an architect by training, but I have a passion for landscape architecture, too. Had I realized there was an all-landscaping school, I would have done that. I have a personal interest in it, so I made a point to learn about it.

Q: Why did you want to work at UTEP?

To be honest, I love the architecture. I appreciate what architect Henry Trost was doing, his attention to detail.

And I mean this when I say it, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of different presidents and they’re all good people, but there’s no one like President Natalicio. One of the drivers was to come work for her and her staff.

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Red Oak gardener is up to her eyes in irises

Bobbie Mason is living proof that if you want to get something done, you should assign it to a person who is already busy. Previewing her garden days before a double feature of tours for the American Iris Society and, about a week later, the Society for Louisiana Irises, Mason described some of her gardening projects.

There’s the wheelchair-accessible therapy garden for veterans. The flower beds at the town square in Red Oak, where she lives. Her participation in flower shows. Her active membership in gardening-centered organizations, from the Dallas Council of Garden Clubs to the National Garden Club, and her leadership roles in several of them. Not only is she District X director for Texas Garden Clubs, she’s also historian for the Oak Cliff Garden Forum and incoming president of the Ovilla Garden Club.

That’s not a comprehensive list, by the way.

The energy she has put into her own garden is considerable, and that doesn’t count husband Robert’s sweat equity. (He weeds the many beds.) Repurposed containers — “something from nothing,” as she puts it — hold most of her Louisiana irises and other plants.

“My husband just gave up this pair of boots. And so they immediately had to become a flowerpot,” she says of footwear that’s now filled with sedum.

Patriotic by nature, Mason has a towering trio of plants in shades of red, white and blue. The white is a native Texas passion vine. It was a 6-inch stick in a gallon bucket at a Texas Discovery Gardens plant sale that she paid $15 for, although “I’m really allergic to spending money on plants,” she says. “I like to trade too much.”

Perhaps Mason’s original trade was at the tender age of 3, when she asked her great-grandmother in Christoval for some of the flags in her yard. (Some varieties of iris are known as flags.) Her great-grandmother said: “Honey, you can have all those old things you want. I’m sick of them.”

“My mother was not happy because I tore up her grandmother’s iris beds,” Mason says. When the misunderstanding was cleared up, “in the pickup they went.” Those irises “followed me around all my married life, and I’m 65 now. So that’s 62 years I’ve been dragging William Setchell” iris bulbs.

Mason joined the Dallas Iris Society in 2000, and now hybridizers send her their new varieties to show off. They get a good ride since she hosts many iris tours.

In all, Mason has found homes on her property for 150 new Louisiana irises “to go with the 50 I already have.” All of this is on a three-fourths-acre lot. “We have 10 pounds of flour in a 5-pound sack.”

A lovely sack it is, too.

Tips for growing irises

Avid iris gardeners have been known to throw surplus iris bulbs over the fence and have them bloom as heartily as their cared-for neighbors. We’re talking Louisiana iris, especially. We’re talking tough.

Sure, there are guidelines for Louisiana and their bearded relations:

1. Planting depth depends on the type of soil. For clay, go shallow. For sandy soil, plant deeper.

2. Irises like about a half-day of sun.

3. Plant at least 12 to 16 inches apart.

4. Fertilize on Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day and Halloween, advises Bobbie Mason. Use a 5-10-5 fertilizer. Tall bearded irises like dry conditions. Louisianas like acid soil and moist conditions. (Louisiana irises love water gardens.) You should use fertilizer designed for acid-lovers on Louisianas. Try azalea or camellia food, Ironite and Epsom salts — but not alfalfa — for Louisiana iris.

5. With any luck (and it doesn’t take much), you’ll need to divide iris in a couple of years. Divide the rhizomes between sections.

Betsy Simnacher is a Cedar Hill freelance writer.

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Blogger Roundup: Father’s Day Memories, Gardening Tips, Fourth of July Event

Each week, Edina community members turn to Patch’s Local Voices section to share information, insight and opinions about what matters to them. Patch blogs give anyone from gardening enthusiasts to local business owners the power to easily connect with the whole neighborhood.

Here’s a look at what Edina Patch bloggers had to say over the last week.

Do you want to join Local Voices? Email Community Editor Val Engler at, or get started here.

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Top 10 bedroom design styles

Posted: Sunday, June 16, 2013 12:00 am

Top 10 bedroom design styles

Home Garden Television

Richmond Times-Dispatch

Choosing a specific design style for your bedroom can transform it into your favorite space in the house. Learn about the most popular design styles to help you pick the one that appeals to you.

Eclectic: Use different colors, patterns and textures to create a cohesive look.

Cottage: A casual, inviting environment makes cottage style a great choice for guest bedrooms. An easy way to add a cottage feel is to repurpose items.

Mediterranean: This style features bold color and texture to create a unique look. A hand-painted bed and whimsical chandelier would represent the region’s culture.

Romantic: Soft hues and delicate fabrics characterize this style. An ornate headboard, silhouette bed pillows and white draperies would bring a feminine touch.

Contemporary: Think sleek furniture, solid colors and chic furnishings.

Asian: Elements might include a warm color palette, nature-inspired furniture and Japanese shoji screens. All work to create a calm, serene feel.

Coastal: Muted colors and light fabrics are staples. Consider a striped ceiling treatment and bamboo ceiling fan to complete an ocean-inspired look.

Modern: Minimal design is the epitome of this style. Minimal furnishings and a neutral color palette enhance the look.

Old World: This style has a luxurious, regal look. Wooden ceiling beams, intricate wall sconces and textured walls are key design elements of the style.

Traditional: A spacious bedroom with traditional furniture creates a timeless look. Include dramatic bedding.

© 2013 Richmond Times Dispatch. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Sunday, June 16, 2013 12:00 am.

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