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Posted: February 23, 2013 5:29 p.m.

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Burgess: Social Circle’s beauty

In every community there’s a choir of folks who loudly sing their songs of complaint about anything and everything going on in town. These are usually the people who contribute very little to help make things better. Fortunately, in Social Circle we have many other groups whose members give generously of their time and talents to help make our city a great place to live, work and play. One group in particular inspires all of us in its efforts to appreciate and enhance the beauty of our community. All my conversations about local beautification projects invariably lead to Crenan and Lynn Mills, two of the most committed members of this group.

Their names have been associated with almost every beautification project that has been undertaken in Social Circle in the recent years.

In 2011, Crenan Mills was honored by The Walton Tribune as one of three unsung heroes in Walton County. This was a real tribute to a person who works behind the scenes, contributing his labor and expertise to beautifying our city.

Crenan began an earlier career in commercial banking; however, because of his love of plants he eventually changed direction and through a circuitous route opened his ornamental plant business, Flower Mills, in 1997. Lynn Mills is a landscape designer by profession and after their marriage, the couple established their residence here in Social Circle.

Crenan serves as chairman of the city’s seven-member tree board. Created by the city council in 2002, the board has the responsibility of developing a tree plan "for the care, pruning, planting, replanting, removal or disposition of trees and shrubs along streets and in other public areas." The tree board has a very limited budget which is mainly used to install trees in locations designated by the board.

Through his leadership, flower containers in the city have blossomed and trees have been planted in spots that have cried out for embellishment and beauty.

Crenan also plans and coordinates our annual Arbor Day celebration. Social Circle is one of 139 Tree City USA communities in Georgia recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation as a place that works to maintain and preserve its trees as a valuable community asset.

In my research, I learned that trees offer many benefits to a community in addition to providing beauty and shade.

Trees also absorb CO2, a major greenhouse gas causing global warming; act as a filter for particles, odors and pollutant gasses; prevent water pollution and soil erosion; and, most importantly, produce clean, breathable air.

Arbor Day is a day in which groups are encouraged to plant and care for trees. The best time to plant trees in Georgia is between the months of November and mid-March. In Social Circle, Arbor Day was celebrated this year on February 2 . Volunteers for this successful event, including several JROTC cadets, their Master Sargent, members of the Social Circle Lions Club and other citizens, assisted Crenan in planting 140 seedlings at the city’s Passive Park on Alcova Drive. Of the 140 trees planted, 50 were dogwoods, 50 wax myrtles,and 40 assorted hardwoods.

Lynn Mills has given generously of her talent in designing landscape plans for a number of sites. One that comes immediately to mind is the "toddler playground" at our city park adjacent to the post office, which has become a favorite hangout for our youngest Social Circle residents.

Lynn created and assisted in implementing a playground for toddler to preschool ages, technically 2 through 5 years, which was constructed in the fall of 2010. The facility was designed to complement the historic look of Social Circle with a Victorian-style roof over the play structure and earth tones to blend with the park surroundings.

A community landscaping event, which included our local Cub Scout troop, was also organized by Lynn and Crenan to install ornamental and flowering plants and evergreen shrubs to give a backdrop to the gazebo.

Lynn has also created a conceptual plan for the Social Circle Road Share Project ( This is an initiative of the non-profit organization Walton Wellness ( to encourage a healthier lifestyle through cycling and create a safer environment for cyclists sharing county streets and roads.

Project Road Share’s first edition was the City of Good Hope, and now the City of Social Circle has signed on to be the second edition.

A trailhead will be created with bike racks and a kiosk displaying a large trail map and other cycling-specific information.

In the conceptual plan, Lynn created landscaped areas of low maintenance trees, shrubs and perennials along with brick pavers in the kiosk "island" located in the parking area behind the Blue Willow Inn.

In a recent initiative by the city, Lynn has prepared a conceptual plan to beautify and add warmth to a cremorial wall located in the corner of the city cemetery adjacent to the Social Circle United Methodist Church parking lot. With spaces for 108 urns, this wall will give those choosing cremation an opportunity to rest for eternity in a lovely setting.

Lynn’s landscaping plan envisions liriope ground cover, ornamental shrubs and knockout rose bushes along with arbors and benches for visitors. A Washington Hawthorn tree and a number of shrubs have now been planted in the wall area and the project is expected to be completed in the next few weeks. Many other groups and individuals are giving generously of their time and talent to beautify our city: Tree Board and Social Circle Garden Club member Barbara Sams is frequently seen around town watering plants and fledgling trees. She and her husband, BB, assist Crenan Mills in planting flowers in the downtown containers and she cares for our iconic well house flower beds as well. The Social Circle Garden Club has initiated a yard of the month program; winners receive a $25 gift certificate from the Flower Mill. The Gateways Garden Club (Lynn Mills is a member) and the Social Circle Garden Club contribute and support many beautification projects in the city, including benches, bike racks at the library, plantings and litter cleanup, to mention a few.

Master Gardener Rosemarie Sells maintains the post office planters, flower beds and shrubbery.

This has been an individual project for her as part of the 50 hours of volunteer hours master gardener trainees must do to complete certification.

After the first year, they must do 25 volunteer hours annually to maintain certification. But, as you might imagine, most of them go way beyond the 25 hour mark annually.

Social Circle resident Edith Foreman serves as chairman of our Better Hometown "Banner Committee" which has selected our long-awaited downtown banners to beautify the downtown area.

A major impediment to a banner program was not having the right brackets or hardware to allow installation of banners on our light poles.

In dealing with this issue, Edith remarked that, "One would think that a light pole is simply a light pole. However, they’re not. They are all different!" The city has been replacing our lights downtown with historic street lamps and it now appears that maybe some of our installation problems have been mitigated.

The Social Circle Lions Club has become an active player in our city’s beautification efforts following an announcement by Lions Club International of a tree planting campaign in support of National Arbor Day. According to LCI’s promotion of this initiative, "Trees play an important role in our communities by beautifying our streets, improving air quality and providing homes for indigenous animals." Lions Club volunteers assisted in the tree planting event at our Passive Park and the club will also assist in the Fourth Grade Foresters project at the Social Circle Elementary School, where they will give away pine seedlings in conjunction with an educational program about what it means to be a Tree City.

These are only some of the examples how our citizens are working together to expand our self-definition as "Georgia Greatest Little Town" to become the most beautiful one as well.

Madeline Burgess is an active volunteer in Social Circle and the wife of former Mayor Jim Burgess.

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