Selmont gateway project continues

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Beautification takes a hit from summer drought

By Coy O’Neal

The Selma Times-Journal

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Feverish summer heat and little to no rainfall over the summer months has left the Selmont-Highway 80 beautification project on hold &045; for the moment.

Patty Sexton, preservation and revitalization coordinator for the Office of Planning and Development, said

city and county officials plan to consolidate nearly half of the beds lining the median, remove dead plants from the rights of way, then restructure the median by transplanting shrubs to make the remaining beds appear thicker.

As temperatures begin to cool off for fall and winter, work will resume on the 54 flower beds that stretch to just outside the police jurisdiction.

Sexton said that she, along with County Commissioner Roy Moore and the state Department of Transportation, have evaluated the extent of the damage to the plants. Sexton said the planted magnolias, day lilies, and larabi, also known as &8220;monkeygrass,&8221; took the hardest hit. Pending state approval, the 54 beds will be consolidated to approximately 25 beds for a &8220;higher visible impact.&8221;

Plants used for the project include pampas, a tall, ornamental grass native to South America; crape myrtle, a plant that blossoms as an evergreen along the coast; wax myrtle, a tree that is used to create natural screens or hedges; carissa hollies, day lilies, willow oaks, junipers, wildflowers, and magnolias.

Sexton said it will be approximately two more years before the grounds mature. The area is maintained by independent contractors hired on by the city and county. The projected cost of maintenance, around $50,000 annually, is split between the city, county, and Craig Airport Authority.

Sexton said any work on the plants will have to be done in December and January because of the low rainfall. &8220;Hopefully if we have a really wet winter and spring, the plants will really take off,&8221; Sexton said.

Sexton added that the beautification project has been complicated by people driving through the median, throwing trash, and stealing plants. &8220;we’ve really got to take pride in our community,&8221; she said.