At ease on the park bench Logo to be hidden on donated seat

June 06, 1993|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

It might have been all right if the slogan on the bench had been a little more subtle. Perhaps something like, "Mayor W. Benjamin Brown and the supermarket shoppers of Westminster."

Or, "Westminster: The City That Eats."

But subtle it wasn't. The back panel of the park bench that a local supermarket offered to donate to the city clearly said, "Martin's Food."

That created a quandary. The parks board didn't want to seem ungrateful for a free bench valued at $300 and a $200 check for trees. And the bench is an example of recycling. It is made of wood mixed with plastic grocery bags.

But a corporate name on city equipment seemed, well, just a bit too commercial.

It could start a trend, reasoned Council President Kenneth A. Yowan, who was council liaison to the parks board at the time the board considered Martin's offer. Today a Martin's bench, tomorrow a Super Fresh bench, next week a Giant bench.

But the board members still wanted the bench and the check. So, a compromise proposal emerged: How about switching the back panel and the seat, turning "Martin's Food" upside down so it would be visible only to ants glancing up as they ran through the grass or to children who crawled under the bench?

The change would be made only after Mayor Brown and Martin's manager Joseph W. Reed posed for a photo behind the bench.

"We left it [the Martin's identification] on for a while, so once it hit the paper people could see [the bench]," said Carol Donovan, city recreation director. "After there's some publicity about it, we'll turn [the name] over."

That's OK with Mr. Reed.

"We don't have a problem with that. We didn't donate them as an advertisement," he said. He said the benches bore Martin's name because the company ordered some for its stores.

The Pennsylvania-based Giant Food Stores Inc., which trades as Martin's in the Baltimore-Washington area, sponsors an environmental awareness project each year, said spokesman Richard Pasewark. He said the corporation donated benches made of recycled plastic bags this year in each of the 57 communities where it operates a market.

The chain's customers have returned 275 tons of plastic bags since 1990, he said. Giant sends them to Mobil Chemical Corp. in Tampa, Fla., to be made into wood polymer.

Mobil officials did not return telephone calls from The Sun. But the president of a Maryland company that makes lumber entirely out of plastic explained how he does it.

John Vazzana, president of Hitchler Industries in Denton, said post-consumer plastic is cut into small pieces, sent into an extruder that mixes and melts the pieces, then poured into a die to shape it. The goo goes through cooling and sizing tanks and emerges as boards.

Mr. Vazzana said he sells the plastic lumber for outdoor furniture and playground equipment.

In Westminster, the new bench rests on the lawn of the Longwell Municipal Center. It may stay there permanently, or it may be moved to the Mather Garden behind City Hall, Mrs. Donovan said.

After a little discreet plastic surgery, of course.

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