Placemaking Success Story

Coeur d’Alene REALTORS® Bring a “Storybook Trail” to Growing Community

It must have been like Christmas at the Rathdrum, Idaho City Hall: the local REALTOR® association had decided to make the small but up-and-coming mountain community the beneficiary of a Placemaking project, with support from the REALTOR® Party, as well as considerable volunteer power of its own.

Ali Taylor, association executive of the 1600-member Coeur d’Alene Association of REALTORS®, explains that her board was aware of Placemaking Grants, and wanted to find a way to use one to help a local community where its members live and work. They chose the City of Rathdrum, a growing city that was still small enough to benefit from the impact of a relatively modest project. Taylor and her board president, Amanda Kuespert, sat down with staff from the Rathdrum Parks and Recreation Department, and asked, “What can we do for you?” It didn’t take much brainstorming to land on a dream project with broad appeal: the creation of a storybook trail at the base of Rathdrum Mountain.

Taylor contacted NAR staff and pitched the idea, whose walkability and community gathering features made it a good fit for a Placemaking Grant. “The project’s intent is to provide children and their families, and even schools and daycares, a destination for spending quality time outdoors, away from the television and electronics, while being active and learning at the same time,” says Taylor. She also expects that the StoryWalk will attract visitors from beyond the City of Rathdrum, which could bolster local businesses, and notes that the trail will be a positive asset for REALTORS® to use in marketing the area.

The Placemaking Grant supported the construction of a gentle, unpaved creek-side trail on a wooded 540-acre plot of public land just a few minutes’ drive from the downtown Rathdrum, and several schools. The city provided the mapping and design of the trail, which features 20 cement posts installed along the path, specially designed to hold pages from picture books chosen by the local library. The books, whose pages are protected by plexiglass covers, will be changed four times a year. The ‘reading stations,’ as well as benches and a nine-foot high cement Bigfoot statue marking the trailhead, were funded by the Placemaking grant, together with another $2,500 pledged by the Coeur d’Alene Association of REALTORS®.

About 20 REALTOR® volunteers joined with city volunteers, Boy Scouts, and other community partners to clear the trail site and install the book posts over the course of about five days this summer. “We had a blast working with all of them!” reports Taylor. “It was a great collaboration, and many parties can claim real ownership of the project, which has been a real success.” The city built a parking lot near the trail to improve access, and has committed to taking care of trash removal; it is also providing an on-site ‘camp host’ during the trail’s open season to provide safety and information.

The City of Rathdrum organized a festive ribbon-cutting ceremony with the mayor when the trail was nearly complete towards the end of the summer, and in its inaugural season, the camp host reported 30 to 60 visitors per day. Several signs, one at the trailhead, a smaller one mid-trail, and a plaque on Bigfoot, credit the Coeur d’Alene REALTORS® with making it possible, and Taylor says that they’ve noticed quite a buzz over the city’s new attraction on local social media. “The project has helped us to develop a strong relationship with community members and city officials,” notes Taylor, adding “It’s been much more impactful than simply writing a check.”

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho are using REALTOR® Party resources to improve the quality of life in their local communities, contact Association Executive Ali Taylor at 208-667-0664. To learn more about Storybook Trails, see Storybook Trails: Where Kids Can Walk and Learn at the Same Time.

Read more

St. Louis REALTORS® Channel History, Community to Celebrate Fair Housing Anniversary

In St. Louis, Missouri, REALTORS® have a profound reminder of past prejudicial real estate practices in the Shelley House, the property at the center of the landmark Supreme Court case of Shelley vs. Kraemer, which gave way to the Fair Housing Act 20 years later. In recognition of the 50th anniversary of that breakthrough legislation, St. Louis REALTORS® engaged into local projects benefiting underserved communities with grants from the REALTOR® Party and Missouri REALTORS®.

“Origins of the Fair Housing Act can be traced back here in St. Louis,” notes Dawn Seabaugh, Director of Communications of the 8,000-member St. Louis REALTORS®, “and it’s crucial to note how it’s helped in strengthening our local communities.  Our REALTORS® firmly believe in equal housing opportunity for all,’ Seabaugh said. “This year we aligned our annual community betterment projects in celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Shelley vs. Kramer case and 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act,” she added. St. Louis REALTORS® sponsored ‘Rebuild Day’ in May, in which REALTORS® helped restore five homes in the community around the Shelley House; and September’s community park project, where members worked for two days to transform a vacant lot into a lush, attractive landscape complete with urban gardens, flower boxes and handicap accessible walk ways.

St. Louis REALTORS® secured permission from the adjacent church that owns the roughly 4,000-square-foot property, and partnered with Rebuilding Together STL, a local non-profit that serves low-income homeowners. St. Louis REALTORS® Foundation, the charitable arm of the association, contributed $25,000 in funding for the project, a collaboration of member donations, a contribution from the association, and a $5,000 grant from Missouri REALTORS®, as well as a $3,000 REALTOR® Party Placemaking Grant. “We’re so fortunate to have the help of our members, NAR, Missouri REALTORS® and Rebuilding Together STL. It takes a great team to accomplish something as great as this park.” says Seabaugh.

The lot is close to an apartment complex for elderly residents and is connected by an alleyway to an existing urban vegetable garden that serves many needs in the area. Prior to the volunteer event, professionals leveled the ground and installed wheelchair-friendly walkways. Over the course of the two-day project, more than 50 REALTORS® and community members came together to assemble umbrellas, build a privacy fence, construct two-level accessible vegetable planters, build picnic tables and benches, and plant trees.

“We are so proud to have been able to help a struggling area of the city,” says Seabaugh.  “This park enhances the vitality and attractiveness of the neighborhood, and lifts the spirits and property values for all homeowners and businesses nearby.” She notes that the effort has strengthened the REALTORS®’ relationship with the community and the city, as well: the October 26th ribbon-cutting was attended by the city alderman, the state senator, and the U.S. congressman representing the area. “We are deeply thankful to NAR for its support,” she says. “These grant programs are fabulous and are put to very good use on the local level.”

To learn more about how St. Louis REALTORS® is working to uplift communities around the city, contact Dawn Seabaugh, Director of Communications, at 314-576-0033.

Read more