The Brookfield village board voted at their March 27 meeting to split up the Conservation Commission and reform the Beautification Committee, a group which had been merged into the larger commission three years ago and which will now work to improve the village’s appearance.

The specific duties of the new seven-member Beautification Committee include identifying areas of blight, helping to develop streetscape programs and organizing volunteer clean-up and planting events. Although they will share some of these duties, the Conservation Commission?” now reduced from nine to five members?”will focus specifically on recycling and conservation issues in the village.

Newly appointed Beautification Committee member Brian Oberhauser explained that the split was made to better accommodate interests and goals that weren’t being met within the larger commission. The main focus of the Conservation Commission over the past few years has been the habitat restoration project in Kiwanis Park, he said, leaving behind village beautification projects.

“There were definitely two focuses in the commission,” he said. “One group wanted to work on restoring North and South Kiwanis, and the other side wanted to focus on beautification, like litter pick-up, and one side tended to be more dominant than the other. With the split, each side can now spend more time on their interests.”

Sue Williams, a Conservation Commission member for the past three years, agreed with that assessment, saying that the many different interests within the commission ultimately led to many unproductive meetings and unmet goals. She said they had tried fixing the problem by creating subcommittees within the commission for specific projects, but these had ultimately failed.

In fact, it was another attempt at reorganization within the commission that finally prompted the split. Trustee Catherine Colgrass Edwards, the village board’s liaison to the commission, said members came to her with a proposal to form a “Friends of Conservation” subgroup that would focus on beautification. At that point, she said, she began pursuing the option of reforming a separate Beautification Committee.

“I asked them, ‘Why reinvent the wheel?'” she said. “Having had hands-on working experience with this group, I could see the need for [two separate committees].”

Through Edwards’ suggestion, Village President Michael Garvey began working with the commissioners on splitting up the duties of the group and determining the make-up of the Beautification Committee and the reorganized Conservation Commission.

Garvey had helped to form the original Beautification Committee in 2001, while he was serving as acting village president. After winning the election against Garvey that year, Village President Bill Russ later dissolved the committee and merged its duties with the Conservation Commission, for what Williams described as “philosophical reasons.”

Now that the split has been made, Oberhauser said he is looking forward to organizing beautification projects in the village. Although the committee members have no definitive plans yet, he said these could involve expending Project NICE to include a fall clean-up day, encouraging more residents to take care of public spaces through the Adopt-A-Spot program, and establishing a competition to encourage people to beautify their property.

“Brookfield is already a good-looking town,” he said, “but it can always be more beautiful.”

As for the Conservation Commission, Williams said they would continue with their existing projects for now, most of which revolve around restoring the oak savanna habitat at Kiwanis Park.

“I’m looking forward to making Kiwanis Park a better resource for the community,” she said. “It can be such an educational and pleasant resource for the community to enjoy, and that will really be our focus.”