By Sherri Coner
This is the story of a Center Grove cul de sac.
Called Dorrell Court, it is framed with mature trees hovering over 17 lovely homes.
And the court touts one entrance and exit.
Plopped smack dab in the center of the pavement embroidering landscaped lawns is a space – roughly 100 feet long and 35 feet wide – which likely began two decades ago as a lovely green space.
After years of neglect however, that green space had become a wilderness.
When Steve and Dixie Knott moved three years ago to their Dorrell Court address, they couldn’t ignore the green space gone wild.
“You couldn’t see through it or around it,” Dixie Knott said with a laugh. “At one end of it there’s a streetlight but you couldn’t see that, either.”
As the Knotts got to know their neighbors, they discovered that no one was a fan of the big mess in the middle of the court.
“It had all these overgrown junk trees,” said Harold Schocke, Dorrell Court resident for seven years. “It was unsightly and didn’t make a positive contribution to the court or to the Ashwood community.”
Neighbors from all walks of life – some still new in their careers with young families, others making their first steps as empty nesters, and still others, already happily retired – had something in common.
No one liked the blob of overgrown yuck.
And they were all willing to tackle the ugly jungle.
A few months ago Steve Knott approached the HOA to request clean-up funds. But the budget had no funds set aside for this year.
Of course, the next option was to go door to door, asking neighbors to open their wallets for the cause.
Along the way, Steve Knott nicknamed the Dorrell Court blemish Gilligan’s Island.
Neighbors happily joined in.
The reason for naming it after a popular sitcom, which ran from 1964 to 1967, was that neighbor responses on Dorrell Court reminded Steve of the different character types shipwrecked on the island.
“They all learned how to work together on that show,” he said with a grin. “And that’s what we’ve done here. We have all worked together.”
With 85% of Dorrell Court residents donating toward the cause, neighbors gathered March 29 for their first committee meeting.
During that first meeting, Steve Knott was elected as the chair with assistance by Dorrell Court neighbor Larry Davidson.
Another Dorrell Court resident, Judy Hoeping, was asked to serve as treasurer for the project. Then the group hired local landscaper Primary Grounds to help realize their vision.
Excitedly, neighbors flocked as heavy equipment was brought in to remove those looming trees. Tree stumps were ground down. Landscape beds were freshly tilled. Tree roots were pulled. Holes were dug for new trees.
Once the mass of trees and brush was hauled away, neighbors could finally see homes and people across the court, which was a first.
They gathered to pick up stray tree limbs and old leaves and threw away any littering hidden away in the mess.
While prepping the space for new landscaping, “We found two memorial stones buried under all the brush,” Steve Knott said. “We’re going to clean those up and put them back on our island.”
A few days later, neighbors again rolled up their sleeves.
Topsoil and mulch arrived along with stacks of sod and 20 tons of Tennessee stone.
The men on the court planted three black hills spruces, one sun valley maple and two winter king hawthorns … a total of six new trees.
So many flowers were purchased and planted and babied toward blooming.
Early in the planning process, Dorrell Court neighbor Nancy Ramey, “came up with the idea of adding a bench and a sitting area,” Steve Knott said. “That moved our thinking more toward a park-like concept.”
Because lots of neighbors walk, everyone agreed with Nancy Ramey, that a sitting area was a perfect addition.
By mid-August, Dorrell Court residents happily greeted neighbors from other areas of the Ashwood community. Plenty of folding chairs were arranged on the pavement, only a few steps away from the completely beautified Gilligan’s Island, in all her glory.
Along with a fire truck and some area police officers on scene for the proud celebration, Greenwood Mayor Mark W. Myers spoke to the crowd about how often today’s families have no idea who they live beside.
They don’t know their neighbors’ names.
Families often just exist privately in their own homes, completely uninvolved with the community outside their front door.
Because Dorrell Court neighbors not only met but worked side by side to meet a goal, the end result is a perfect reminder about how much can be achieved by simply working together.
“Our Gilligan’s Island turned out really, really nice for everybody,” Steve Knott said.