OAKLAND -- For Oakmore neighborhood residents, beautifying Leimert Boulevard last summer was a big task. Keeping it beautiful has proved equally challenging.
In May 2012, volunteers from the Oakmore Homeowners Association spruced up a half-dozen tree wells lining the small commercial strip with new plantings and stones. However, the planters have been a chore to maintain -- not just watering and weeding -- but protecting them from a stampede of pedestrians and dogs.
"We're trying to keep it open and friendly," resident Katie Creighton said about the association's communication with neighbors and visitors to the Oakland hills community.
Enter 7-year-old Liam Hearn and his magically persuasive chalk. Creighton spotted the Montclair Elementary student outside his home drawing on the sidewalk when she got the idea to commission him to safeguard the planters. Liam sprang into action, drawing messages on all four sides of the tree wells on the 1400 block of Leimert Boulevard.
"Let us grow -- no dogs please," is one plea that borders the planters. Colorful depictions of rainbows, sunshine, butterflies and flowers accompany the kind warnings.
Liam, who created the sidewalk signage during three days in July, said he was happy to help "keep the plants going so we have a beautiful neighborhood."
Creighton, who monitors the wells closely, said people walking their dogs have seen the etchings and kept their pets from relieving themselves on the plants. The association gave Liam a special certificate of recognition during its September meeting.
His mother, Susan Hearn, said the experience demonstrated that her family, who moved to California from New York this past year, had chosen a community that really cared. The drawings provided a good lesson for her son that even "little things" matter, she said.
"He's more committed to his neighborhood," she said.
Creighton said the homeowners association would like Leimert Boulevard merchants to take over maintenance of the planters. The association would like to focus on other phases of their beautification plans, including landscaping the other end of Leimert Boulevard where it intersects with Monterey Boulevard.
"It's a source of pride for all of us that people care," said Scott Halbrook, an agent with Farmers Insurance.