“I didn’t think it would take the hours it took,” says Ed Barger, president of the Abrams Road Beautification Coalition.

“I thought a few phone calls here and there would open the doors, and that would be about it. But it takes more than that.”

Barger is talking about the efforts of his group, along with the non-profit Dallas Parks Foundation, to beautify a two-mile stretch of Abrams Road from Kingsley to Meadowknoll with more than $95,000 in landscaping.

Why the big fuss over a few treesa nd shrubs?

“Because it’s Main Street to our neighborhoods,” says Barger, who has lived in Lake Highlands for 14 years. “It’s not just another six-lane highway to us.”

The effort began early last year, when a $21,000 federal grant was received to plant and maintain trees along the median, Barger says.

“When we had our first meeting (of adjoining homeowners association), we had a grant and a plan. Instead of sitting around saying, ‘wouldn’t it be nice if we could do something,’ we already had the plan.”

At the time, Barger headed the Town Creek Homeowners Association. He volunteered to contact a friend concerning the median project and wound up in charge.

By July 1991, all adjacent homeowners groups had been contacted, and the group began soliciting corporate and individual donations to complete the ambitious project.

Through door-to-door canvassing of the area’s 3,000 homes, as well as a variety of money-making projects, more than $35,000 was raised.

Among the biggest projects: a wire-hanger collection drive that netted more than 125,000 hangers, “most of which ended up in my driveway,” Barger says.

Corporations contributed an additional $5,000, and numerous additional products and services – such as plants and a sprinkler system – were donated.

Following expected completion of the project later this year, the group will be billed $8,225 annually for water. The Dallas Park Department will mow, weed and edge the medians. The Abrams Road group will be responsible for repairing and replacing damaged plants and equipment.

More than 1,600 members of 10 neighborhood associations have agreed to a $5 annual assessment to defray the projected costs, Barger says.

“The frustrating part is the length of time it’s taken, and it’s still not done,” Barger says. “Everybody said, ‘Yeah, we’d like to help you,’ but they’d open the door when you came in and close it right after you left.”

Mike Bradshaw, project manager for the Dallas Parks Foundation, says Barger’s persistence was vital to ensuring the project got off the ground.

“Ed’s real leadership role was doing all of the background work,” Bradshaw says. “That was the hard work. He’s been great to work with in terms of managing the project. What’s going on now is the showy stuff.”

Landscaping isn’t Barger’s area of expertise. Instead, he operates Barger Engineering, a sales and consulting engineering firm he began in 1985 after years of high-tech design experience with other firms.

“They say its great to work for yourself because you get to work your own hours,” he says. “The trouble is, your own hours are about twice as long as everybody else’s.”

One of his major clients is NASA, to which he sold an application for a cabin air cleaner for the Space Shuttle. He’s also working on another project designed to improve maneuverability of astronauts in space.

“Space has interesting requirements,” Barger says. “Just opening a can of beans requires special equipment.”

In January, Barger began serving as Lake Highlands’ representative on the City Plan Commission as an appointeeof Councilman Donna Halstead, who me met through the Abrams Road project.

“I was kind of ‘green’ when I first went down there, and I had to do a lot of studying, but it’s been rewarding and interesting,” he says.

Following completion of the landscaping project, Barger says, he’ll take some time off from volunteer duties. But he plans to continue helping make Lake Highlands a better place to live.

“We feel like we have a lot of pride in our homes and our neighborhoods. It’s kind of a unique place to live, we think.”