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Affiliate of the Month: Keep Denton Beautiful on 30+ Years of Beautification and Environmental Efforts

By August 29, 2018No Comments

The History of KDB

If you mention Keep Denton Beautiful (KDB) to a Dentonite, you’ll likely get a story about how they received a free tree from us, or how they love our murals around town. KDB’s history expands over three decades of beautification efforts. In 1987, Denton’s City Council saw a need to beautify their small college town. At that time, Denton had just over 65,000 residents, a third of which were college students. The Council formed a Blue Ribbon Task Force made up of twenty council-appointed individuals whose goal was to improve the appearance of entrance-ways to the city and boost the overall image of Denton. Soon the task force morphed into an 11-to-13 member commission, later renamed Keep Denton Beautiful (KDB). In 1996, KDB achieved their 501(c)(3) nonprofit status and established an 11 volunteer Board of Directors and eventually added three full-time staff members to run KDB’s day-to-day operations. More than 30 years later, KDB continues its efforts to engage the community in creating a clean and beautiful Denton.

More than 2,000 volunteers clean up litter during the Great American Cleanup each year; photo by The Vision Beautiful.

Litter Prevention + Abatement

Decades after KDB’s very first litter cleanup, the Great American Cleanup (GAC) remains our longest-running event. The first cleanup in 1987 was along University Drive, a major thoroughfare in Denton, across from a Sonic Drive-In. The Sonic workers noticed the volunteers and offered them lunch coupons as a “thank you” for their efforts – KDB’s first lunch donation! With its first city-wide cleanup effort, KDB created connections with Dentonites that would remain strong with the organization for years to come. More than 2,000 volunteers participate each year, and in 2018, we collected nearly 9.5 tons of litter from Denton’s parks, roadways, and waterways. The GAC concludes with a large volunteer party complete with live music, bounce houses, and a free lunch donated by local restaurants.

Hundreds of runners take part in KDB’s Redbud Romp 5K Race in 1999; photo from KDB archives.
The Denton Redbud Festival is a day for Dentonites to celebrate the environment with free classes, live music, family fun, and home and garden products; photo by The Vision Beautiful.


KDB’s largest event, the Denton Redbud Festival just celebrated its 25th year! The annual Redbud Festival is Denton’s official Arbor Day event, held each spring. Attendees of all ages can learn about tree planting and other topics through free workshops, socialize and receive free trees and home improvement materials. 

The first Redbud Day was held in 1994, but prior to this, Texas State College (now Texas Woman’s University) held a Redbud event from 1939 to 1981. During the ’90s, this event was called “Redbud Days and Romp” and featured 1K and 5K races, which hosted more than 240 runners. In 2001, the event was renamed “Denton Redbud Festival” and has thrived as a family-friendly festival ever since. Fun fact: the Redbud tree is the official tree of Denton!

In an effort to combat graffiti, KDB also began a Mural Art Initiative. KDB has commissioned three public murals with a fourth scheduled for this fall. Our next mural location is a prominent entrance to the city, and with help from the KAB/Lowe’s grant, this mural project will reflect what a clean and beautiful Denton means to its community members.

Public murals are an important beautification effort in Denton. With the introduction of our own public murals, we have inspired others to create their own art; Mural art by Travis Sykes, 2015.
Public mural along SCRAP Denton building in Denton by artist Mick Burson, June 2015.

 Recycling + Waste Reduction

It’s hard to imagine not having the convenience of single-stream curbside recycling, but not too long ago, Denton was just getting started. The photo below shows a momentous day for Keep Denton Beautiful when glass recycling was first introduced in Denton in 1990. Now City of Denton Solid Waste & Recycling runs one of the top operations in the world. It’s exciting to imagine where we will be in the next 30 years!

Cecile Carson, former KDB Executive Director, stands with City of Denton staff to commemorate the introduction of glass recycling to Denton in 1990; photo from KDB archives.

Urban Forestry

Cultivating Denton’s urban forests and protecting trees is a cause near and dear to KDB. KDB has been responsible for Denton’s designation as a Tree City USA community for 27 years. This fall, KDB will celebrate its 20th Annual Community Tree Giveaway, an event where residents can receive a free tree for their home. Each year, KDB gives out an average of 760 native or adapted trees at this drive-thru event at the city landfill. In addition to the tree giveaway, KDB has worked with the City of Denton since 2015 to give away 1,200 free trees to residents through the Denton Tree Initiative. 

More than 700 trees are distributed annually at our Community Tree Giveaway; photo by The Vision Beautiful.
Free tree care classes are offered and 100 free trees are given out at the Denton Redbud Festival every year; photo by The Vision Beautiful.

Although this is just a snapshot of where Keep Denton Beautiful started and how far we’ve come, we want to inspire other communities to take action. Our organization started with one goal: to beautify the city’s entryways – and look how it grew! Beginning with one goal in mind and starting small can evolve into a community culture. Here’s to 30 years of a clean, beautiful, and vibrant Denton!  

​Blog Post Written by Autumn Natalie, Event & Outreach Coordinator of Keep Denton Beautiful