Tricia DeOme, LG, an environmental geologist in GeoEngineers’ Tacoma (WA) office, was honored at the spring 2012 shareholders meeting as the company’s Volunteer of the Year. Six months after that ceremony, Tricia details the latest on her volunteer activities and their impact on her community.
Tricia’s answer to the question, “What have you been doing for the Tacoma community?” filled the 20-minute (hands-free) cell phone call she squeezed in while traveling between a job site and her office. Tricia has contributed countless hours as a volunteer with the City of Tacoma’s Central Neighborhood Council. She and other members of the organization, one of eight Tacoma neighborhood councils, act as liaisons to help citizens resolve neighborhood problems with the City. In her call, Tricia described her work on three ambitious initiatives the group has undertaken: lessening billboard blight, improving a community park and beautifying a highway off ramp that feeds into a central Tacoma neighborhood.
The billboard initiative is a project of Scenic Tacoma, a group founded under the auspices of the Central Neighborhood Council. This local chapter of Scenic America includes residents of the Central Neighborhood; representatives from the preservation group Historic Tacoma; and property owners who hold agreements with billboard owners. Scenic Tacoma was started when the City of Tacoma and Clear Channel entered into an agreement to allow 672-squarefoot digital billboards in neighborhood business districts, many of them located in the Central Neighborhood. In 2011, the public input persuaded the City to ban digital billboards from Tacoma. The group is in the process of joining a committee with the City of Tacoma and Clear Channel to evaluate ideas that lessen billboards’ impact on neighborhoods.
The Friends of Franklin Park initiative is an ongoing cleanup project in a popular central city park. One wooded, overgrown section of the park provided shelter for public drinking and homeless encampments. Along with other City and neighborhood groups, Tricia and others from the Central Neighborhood Council formed a Metro Parks-sponsored CHIP-in! (Citizens Helping Improve Parks) group to improve the overgrown park. The group schedules monthly work parties to clear pathways, improve landscaping and eliminate overgrown hiding places, making the woodsy park area safer and more attractive for community use.
Bordered by an old chain-link fence and surrounded by weeds, the Sprague Avenue exit from SR 16 has long been an eyesore. After helping the project secure innovation and stormwater grant funding from city and state sources, Tricia and the group gathered input from the neighborhood and coordinated sessions with the landscape architect designing the improvements. The final design calls for replacing the fence with attractive metal panels and planting rain gardens to enhance the area without creating a dominating visual barrier. Construction is slated to begin in December.
As she arrived at her office and wrapped up the call, Tricia admitted that trying to bring change to urban Tacoma can be slow and frustrating. As an example, she pointed to the Sprague Avenue Exit project, which has taken five years so far. And with a one-year-old baby at home, Tricia and her husband have had a bit less time for volunteering. But those challenges haven’t dimmed her resolve to keep at it. “It’s true, things take forever, but I like seeing the change in Tacoma, understanding how the process works and being part of that change.”