By Cheryl Conway
Morristown Beautiful, Inc., is in full bloom again with a renewed interest to preserve, fundraise and maintain all of the components that make Morristown a fabulous place to live, work and visit.
Established 42 years ago, the non-profit 501(c)3 organization is up and running again with a new board of trustees, events planned and an energy to revitalize its mission to enhance and sustain the 300 year old township. The organization just reformed this past month and already held its kick-off fundraiser at Olives Lucy’s Kitchen, Thurs., Aug. 18, attracting 75 attendees for wine-tasting and hors d’oeuvres.
Those involved in Morristown Beautiful either work, live, are past residents or just love the community. The organization is supported by the Morristown Clean Communities Program, the Rotary Club of Morristown and the Morristown Partnership.
“We got up and running this past month,” explains Kathleen Margiotta, secretary for Morristown Beautiful Board of Trustees and Clean Communities Coordinator. “The board kind of floundered,” she says, with members getting older or moving away.
Margiotta helped to keep the organization alive through the Clean Communities Program, but now with the new board, Morristown Beautiful can grow again and attract even more volunteers and initiatives.
“2016 is a rebirth for this organization,” says Margiotta. “It was never ended, just running by a thread. We never wanted it to flounder; people weren’t around anymore. It was a matter of getting people back together. Morristown Beautiful is back in business; we’ve been in a holding period.”
With a 12 member board of trustees, “Some board members have businesses, some work in town, some historically love Morristown,” says Margiotta. “We want to get people from all segments involved.”
The purpose for Morristown Beautiful is “to promote and maintain the beauty and unique characteristics of Morristown,” says Margiotta, “keeping it clean, safe and pleasant.”
Its mission is to preserve the town by “educating and encouraging public use, appreciation, of places of beauty and historical or cultural significance in and around the Town of Morristown,” as stated on the website.
Other missions are to develop “by organizing and funding projects that enhance the beautification of the town” and to maintain the town “by cleaning and restoring public parks, monuments, historical sites, and other places of aesthetic or cultural interests.”
Morristown Beautiful was incorporated in Sept. 24, 1974, by Glenn K. Coutts Sr., a native Morristonian and civic leader, to spruce up the town. While serving as the Morristown Rotary Club president in 1973, Coutts traveled to Lucerne, Switzerland for an international Rotary Club conference and was impressed by that town’s beauty. Coutts then returned to Morristown and shared those images with the rotary requesting a campaign to beautify the town.
“Soon, the town’s government, schools, business community and other organizations signed on to the plan and it became a town-wide project,” the website states.
“A lot of founding members were rotary members,” says Margiotta who first got involved in the organization as a councilmember.
Coutts, who was chair of Morristown Green, served as Morristown Beautiful president for more than 40 years. The organization has supported the planting of trees, planters filled with flowers, and placement of trash receptacles along downtown sidewalks.
In the 1990s, 50 trash receptacles were donated to the town by Morristown Beautiful, adds Margiotta.
One of the current projects for Morristown Beautiful is to increase the number of flowering pots around town.
The Morristown Rotary Club spearheaded the Flower Barrel Program and continued it for years, explains Jennifer Wehring, Morristown Beautification chair who works for Morristown Partnership.
The rotary provided wooden flowering pots, or whiskey barrels, but many started falling apart, explains Margiotta.
“Lots of water needed to make these flowers flourish,” she says.
After looking into other planter options, Werhing learned about the success of self-watering buckets being used in other New Jersey towns.
So far 22 of the old pots have been replaced by self-watering flower planters filled with a seasonal mixture of annual flowers. The buckets were funded by Morristown Partnership in May and planted in June throughout the business district of Morristown including the four corners of the Morristown Green.
“Jennifer got the pots, got the soil; I went out and bought the plants,” says Margiotta, a master gardener.
The new self-watering pots are cost effective as they keep the plants moist, reducing the number of replacement flowers and save watering time by township employees.
With the new self-watering pots, employees of the Public Works department can wait every two weeks to water the flowers, thus, freeing up their time to work on other projects, says Margiotta.
The new planters contain a large reservoir with water wicks in the base drawing the water into the soil, explains Wehring. Half of the tray is filled with soil and the other half is water.
“They are expensive,” Margiotta says, but in the end cost effective.
Wehring confirms that they cost about $350 per planter, including the plants and soil.
Morristown Partnership decided to partner with Morristown Beautiful to help with its cause.
“We pride ourselves to make Morristown a nice place to come,” says Wehring. Morristown Partnership put up $9,000 in seed money to pay for the new planters, soil, flowers and fertilizer.
“We are getting ready to replant them in the fall,” says Margiotta, who is always looking for volunteers to help plant the flowers.
The goal is to purchase even more with monies collected through community-oriented fundraising, and eventually replace all 120 pots throughout town, in highly traffic areas, pedestrian islands, around the Green and at traffic lights, says Wehring.
“They are really impactful,” says Wehring. “They add that extra touch around town.”
Since they are not affixed to the ground, the planters will be retired around November for the winter and return in mid-May, she adds.
Another project is to work on beautifying and landscaping the entranceways into Morristown, says Margiotta, such as the entranceway at Route 287 at Lafayette and Riddgedale avenues.
“There’s nothing there now,” says Margiotta. “We want a beautification project there.”
To fund all of the projects, fundraising events will be scheduled throughout the year. Morristown Beautiful is always looking for volunteers and financial support.
Businesses, residents and visitors are being encouraged to make a “modest donation” through online fundraising.
“You can be involved as you want,” says Margiotta. “Maybe come out for a cleanup or come plant flowers.”
Two cleanups are scheduled annually- one in the spring and one in the fall – through Morristown Clean Communities, the town’s litter control, prevention and abatement program, which is a sub-committee of the Morristown Beautiful program.
Sponsored by Morristown Clean Communities and being held by Morristown Beautiful, the next litter cleanup is set for Sat., Sept. 24, at 9 a.m. at Burnham Park. Come out for Morristown Parks and Ponds Day for invasive species removal in parks and along waterways, an Eco Fair and cookout luncheon for volunteers.
In addition to recycling, clean-up and beautification days, other efforts to beautify Morristown are through the Adopt-A-Spot program and educational programs at schools.
“We are promoting a sense of pride in our community,” says Margiotta.
“Our community is a really lovely place to live, to work, to play,” says Wehring. “Beautification projects add to that. Morristown is where I want to be. I want it to look great.”
For more information or for upcoming events to support Morristown Beautiful, go to www.morristownbeautiful.org or call 973-644-4363.