In 1991, the Emmaline D. Barco Beautification Fund Trust Under the Will of George J. Barco funded its first three projects — landscaping at Elizabeth Park and eight trees planted along Park Avenue.

Fifteen years and nearly $220,000 later, the fund has paid for 99 beautification projects in Meadville.

They range from benches to signs, from bricks to street lights, from flowers to mulch, and they all are meant to make the city more attractive. “It’s for the beautification of the city: trees, shrubs, anything they approve,” said Richard Williams, the city’s director of planning and development. Williams gathers suggestions for projects and submits them to Jim Duratz, whose approval is needed.

And, apparently, the approval is always given. “They usually give me a list and I say it’s OK,” Duratz said. “I can’t think of anything I’ve said no to.”

Initially, Duratz, wife Helene, and her sister Yolanda, daughters of George and Emmaline Barco, approved the projects by committee. The others have since passed away.

Among others, projects have included $50,541 for the black-pole streetlights on Chestnut, Center and Market streets, on Market Square and at the Meadville City Building; $46,385 for the green and gold wooden signs at city-owned buildings, parking lots and parks; $35,907 for planting beds at city properties; $33,999 for tree planting in rights of way and parks; and $11,166 for the trail of history markers, according to city figures.

In all, the money has totaled $219,671. City Finance Director Tim Groves said the will allows any interest on the $200,000 trust fund to be spent.

Duratz said the choices of projects have been wonderful. “I like the idea of all the signs in the parks and the little places at intersections with flowers planted, that type of thing,” he said.

The fund’s impact truly stands out when a project area is seen before and after, he said. “When Rick gives me the list, I like to go out and look at it. I enjoy going to look at the finished product.

“Mr. Barco really loved the city and his wife, of course, did too,” he said. “They all liked pretty flowers and things like that. It’s a nice feeling. It’s just sad that I’m the only one left and they all couldn’t be here to enjoy it.”

He said the fund was set up to provide money for projects that wouldn’t otherwise happen.

And city officials agree they would never likely get done without the fund.

“I think they’ve enabled us to do many projects we couldn’t otherwise afford,” said Mayor Richard Friedberg. “It’s helped us fund things that we don’t really have another dedicated funding source for. The city’s grateful, very grateful, to the Barco and Duratz families.”

The Barco-Duratz Foundation also awards scholarships to area students and was instrumental in creating the Meadville Area Recreation Complex and keeping the countywide recycling program alive.

Duratz said it’s those concepts, of community service, cooperative initiatives and promoting the greater good, that the foundation strives to promote. “I think those types of things are important.”

Projects paid for by the Emmaline D. Barco Beautification Fund Trust Under the Will of George J. Barco

- Decorative lights on Chestnut, Center and Market streets, on Market Square and at the Meadville City Building — $50,541.

- Signs at city-owned buildings, parking lots and parks — $46,385

- Planting beds — $35,907, in city-owned buildings, rights of way, parking lots and parks

- Tree planting in rights of way and parks — $33,999

- Brickwork and benches at parking lots and parks — $16,047

- Trail of history markers — $11,166

- Total — $219,671

Source: Richard Williams, city director of planning and zoning

City’s other beautification funds

Funds, followed by where the money came from, what they’re used for and current balances:

- Balizet Estate — Estate gift, shade trees, $12,700

- Kenneth A. Beers Bicentennial Park — Donations, park maintenance and improvement, $2,900

- Bulen Band Shell — Maintenance and improvement at Diamond Park gazebo, about $100,000, estate gift

- Mary DeArment Park — Estate, maintenance and improvement at the park, $12,000.

- Beautification Committee — Estate gift, for trees and shrubs, $29,000

- Memorial Tree Fund — Donations, new trees on city properties and rights of way, $24,000

Source: Tim Groves, city finance director

Gary Johnson can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at gjohnson@ meadvilletribune.com

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