Last year, after some big storms hit the area, Jon and Barbara Mills of Duncansville once again stood ankle-deep in water in their yard and knew they finally had do something about their flooding problem.
What they didn't know is that a little while later in that same once-soaked spot they'd be looking at a beautiful waterfall that they'd invite others to come marvel at, too.
"Everyone comments on it when they see it,'' Jon Mills said. "They did such a good job building it into the existing landscape.''
Mirror photos by Gary M. Baranec
Brent and Cris Leighty of Newry sit in front of their landscaped backyard waterfall as their children — (from left) Falyn, 8, Kaiya, 12 and Taryn, 2 — play.
"They" are Tussey Landscaping of Hollidaysburg and the Mills waterfall and surrounding landscaping work is part of an evening tour this Saturday of some of the firm's home outdoor living water-related sites it has created for area residents. Proceeds from the tour benefit The Arc of Blair County, a nonprofit organization that helps mentally challenged people in the county.
The Blair County tour, which features five homes and a couple of local businesses including an area restaurant, has been a local fixture for seven years but has been held at night for the past two.
The tour was moved to night because lighting has become such a big part of the outdoor living experience, said Tussey Landscaping Owner Steven Martin.
If you go
What: "Moonlight Walk," Outdoor Living Spaces Tour
When: 5 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday
Details: $10 per couple or $18 group rate "everyone that fits"; children 12 and under are admitted for free.
All proceeds will be donated to The Arc of Blair County. Tour booklets may be purchased at www.outdoorlivingspacetour.com by clicking the "Register for the Tour" link and then by completing the online registration; by calling 696-3700 or purchased tickets at Tussey Mountain Mulch Landscape Center, Route 36 between McKee and Roaring Spring. Food will be offered at Tussey Mountain during the tour.
"When you install lighting, especially with a waterfall, there's something magical about that," Martin said. "In outdoor living with lighting, at nighttime, there's almost always more of a wow factor.''
Martin has dubbed the waterfall his firm installed for Mills as "Mills Falls," and said it is one of the highlights of the tour because it is the highest waterfall his company has ever built. It is a great example of practically solving a customer's problem with an attractive solution, Martin said.
Mills and his wife had endured several years of flooding and ruined carpet before they called for help, Mills said. Tussey Landscaping crew workers removed wood walls and replaced them with a layer of stone and a pipe drainage system so that even with heavy rains, the water runs off into the pipes and doesn't back up into the yard, Mills said.
Any excess water goes into a storage tank or into the waterfall, he said. Mills uses the water from the storage tank to water his garden. Crews also planted trees to blend in with existing ones, added a fire pit and installed lighting, steps and pavers.
The waterfall is very popular with his 2-year-old granddaughter.
"She absolutely loves it," he said. "She can walk right under it."
Other customers of Martin's, Brent and Cris Leighty of Newry, also had a waterfall and lighting installed, along with additional landscaping work, including natural stone steps. This will be their second year on the tour. Last year about 300 people attended the tour, but it doesn't worry Cris Leighty to have that many people coming to her home.
"It's kind of like giving back for all the great work they [Tussey Landscaping] did for us," she said.
Both Mills and Cris Leighty said they were very pleased with the way the workers tried to keep the job on schedule and also cleaned up after themselves. The homeowners agreed they liked the fact that the proceeds from the tour go to a charitable cause.
Another point that they both cited when discussing their waterfalls is that they both found the sound of the falling water relaxing. Cris Leighty said at first she didn't want the waterfall, but now she's glad she had it installed.
"I don't regret it at all," she said. "It's probably my favorite part. It's just like sitting beside a little stream. I had no idea just how relaxing it would be.''
The cost of outdoor living projects varies according to need and budget. The cost of having a waterfall installed starts at about $5,500, Martin said. When you add other water features such as bubbling steps then expand into other items such as outdoor kitchens or elements like fire pits or fire rings, the cost goes up, he said.