Growing vines on power poles is a long-term solution suggested as a way to enhance a sense of community in Northland.

Growing vines on power poles is a long-term solution suggested as a way to enhance a sense of community in Northland.

While that might not sit well with the people who have to climb the poles as part of their jobs, a group of Ohio State University students believes such a technique might help enhance the image of the Northland area.

"Another low-cost action to reduce the impact of utility wires on streetscapes can be implemented in the study area," according to the report, "A Time for Change: Redefining the Identity for Northland" by Professor Jack L. Nasar and his students of city and regional planning. "This plan recognizes the presence of illegal signage on power poles as a major hindrance to the visual appeal of the area. We recommend mitigating their impact through power-pole vine enhancements. With the vines blocking the power poles, it will not be as easy to post signs.

"This technique is successful in many communities, and offers a pleasing, unique and low-maintenance solution for the Northland (area)."

"Some things are so simple and yet so smart they tend to escape our attention," Northland Community Council president Dave Paul commented last week. "It's kind of a refreshing a proposal."

The initial aim of the study that began last fall was to focus on signs illegally posted throughout the Northland area, but it evolved to embrace much broader areas, including reducing crime and the fear of crime as well as improving the visual appearance of the area and adding to a sense of community.

Recommendations for achieving these three goals were divided into three categories: actions that can be undertaken right away, in the near future and on a long-term basis.

The short-term actions for addressing the issue of crime include adding community gardens to "foster a sense of ownership of the land while encouraging citizen participation" and stepping up a police presence in the community "to deter criminal activity in the area by adding even more natural surveillance."

Midterm actions call for creating greater access control to neighborhoods by closing selected streets to through traffic, a strategy implemented with some success in the Dayton neighborhood of Five Oaks, where, the report states, it was found that "road closures are an effective access-control method which not only reduces through traffic but also deters criminal activity by providing access control and eliminating escape routes."

It also makes neighborhood streets safer for pedestrians, the report adds. Enhancing Block Watch programs was also included in the list of midterm actions.

A more long-term project for addressing crime perceptions in the Northland area would be to rezone Tamarack Circle. On-the-street interviews by the students found that many view Tamarack Circle as a focus for criminal activity.

"By establishing the area as a community gathering point, crime will be reduced through natural surveillance and territorial definition," according to the document.

Only mid- and long-term actions were recommended as ways of enhancing community identity and visual appeal.

More immediately, the report recommends planting more street trees, adding symbolic markers at key entry points "to distinguish different parts of the neighborhood from one another" and adding signs that help people find their way to community assets such as the libraries and YMCA.

Vines on utility poles and more pedestrian and bicycle paths are the long-term actions recommended in the report.

Finally, in the area of improving a sense of community for residents, community gardens were once again recommended as a near-term project. Mid-term actions in this area included previous solutions of placing symbolic markers at key portals, more access control to through traffic and adding "way-finding signs." New street signs with a logo unique to Northland were also suggested.