HARDY, AR (KAIT) – An unruly yard can cost homeowners a small fine in the City of Hardy, but city officials have also decided to honor some locals that keep their lawns looking nice, like Marlene Sawyer.
Sawyer moved to Hardy 28 years ago, and the first thing the lifelong gardener did was put in a flower bed.
"I've always found it relaxing, and I've always enjoyed it and it's a form of exercise," Sawyer said about gardening. "It's also a form of fulfillment to watch things grow, too."
She says maintaining the garden has also given her a sense of pride.
"When you drive by, I'd like people to say, 'I'd like to have a yard like that,'" Sawyer said. "People have driven by and say they want a yard like [mine], but they're not willing to put that kind of work in it."
Someone apparently thought enough of her yard to nominate it three years ago for the town's first ever 'Yard of the Month' contest, which she won.
"I was as surprised as I could be, so hard work paid off," Sawyer said.
Hardy Mayor Nina Thornton created the 'Yard of the Month' contest because she said it was time for some positive reinforcement. She hoped that rewarding people with well-maintained yards would make others step up their game – a strategy that she claims is now working.
"This was a positive side of a negative issue," Thornton said. "If you do something good with your lawn and keep all your property nice and kempt, you are going to get a reward instead of us just nagging you because it looks awful."
Since the contest began three years ago, Thornton says she's noticed a few new landscaping projects being completed in several neighborhoods.
"I have noticed that they have actually put in flower beds in three more homes adjacent to the home that won the 'Yard of the Month' [previously]," she said, "so we know [the contest] is working."
Neighbors can nominate people every month for the contest at Hardy City Hall. The only stipulation is that the yard has to be "pleasing to the eye," Thornton says. An anonymous committee then decides who will win. The winner will receive a certificate and get to sport the 'Yard of the Month' sign in their front lawn for the next 30 days.
The mayor says the city has no plans to end the contest anytime soon. She hopes to name a new 'Yard of the Month' winner for August in the next few days.
Sawyer says the contest has motivated her to do even more in her yard, and she's now encouraging others to do the same.
"You should try to grow things and enjoy them because they're a form of connection to nature," she said, "and I've loved it all my life."