Forest Lane is now “Memory Lane” for many W.T. White students, and a breath of fresh air for others who pass. That’s because graduate Brent Herling saw to it that the mural running along the street from Rosser Road to Midway Road was revived.
“I started walking down Forest Lane waving paintbrushes at people, trying to get volunteers to come over. My wife and daughter covered their eyes and faces in shame and left,” he joked. “They came back two hours later to bring drinks, and lo and behold, I had 13 people out there helping to paint.”
W.T. White students such as Herling first painted the wall in the 1970s, at the height of “Forest Lane cruising,” but over time, the paintings began to fade, and the empty space attracted graffiti.
Herling first tried to revive the mural in 2011 with a sneaky Spongebob Squarepants cartoon. He faced some backlash then, but other graduates also wanted in on the project.
“They were looking for money for paint,” former Glen Meadow Estates Home Owners Association president Michael Birdsong remembered. “Some of it had been donated by Lowe’s, but not enough, and it kind of just fizzled out.”
This year, Herling decided to give it another try. By mid-April, he was busy recruiting volunteers in person, through word of mouth, and on Facebook.
“You don’t realize how long that half-mile stretch is until you’re sitting on the ground way up near the top of the wall, and you can’t even see anybody near the other side of the wall,” he said. “I had never used Facebook for anything, really, until this, and it was such a wonderful tool.”
Even though he reached up to 40 or 50 volunteers at the wall at one time, that’s not to say Herling didn’t face significant opposition. Particularly, a few members of the Glen Meadow Estates HOA opposed certain elements of the plan.
“There were a lot of people who were against it,” said Birdsong, whose time as president of the HOA ended on Sept. 13. “They said, ‘what we need to do is paint it beige.’ Other people said, ‘oh, we need to tear it down and put in a shrub.’”
Though Birdsong himself was in favor of Herling’s proposition, he was aware that other members didn’t share his sentiment — those members declined to comment on the matter.
“When I drive by there, it makes me happy, it makes me smile, and it looks good,” Birdsong said.
Herling personally felt that a beige wall would invite more graffiti, so he continued on. That coupled with a sense of community allowed him to power through into August and finish the mural.
“It was fantastic,” he said. “I’ve never seen such an outpouring of public support.”