Jackson County Times

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

$96,000 Grant Approved for Gateway Beautification

County would have to permanently assume maintenance if they accept this funding. By Sid Riley

Few would argue that it would greatly enhance the first impressions visitors get of Jackson County as they exit I-10 at the Highway 71 interchange if the exit ramp and the hwy 71 right of way going toward Highway 90 was adorned with landscaped plants, flowers, and trees. In fact this beautification project has been a desire of several community leaders for years.

Well, the opportunity is at hand. The Department of Transportation has agreed to fund $96,000 for the landscaping, purchase, and planting of the ferns, flowers, bushes, and trees which would convert this ordinary roadway into a pleasant visual experience. ….However, there are a few obstacles which must be hurdled.

In order to accomplish this project, the county must first create a landscaping plan which will be approved by the DOT. Then, the county must sign a contract agreeing that the county will assume maintenance of the area involved, which could conceivably span from the exit ramps and from 1000 ft south of the interstate to the intersection of Highway 71 with Highway 90. It appears it is up to the County to decide the scope of coverage for the beautification effort.

The first step it to develop a set of landscape architectural plans for submission to DOT. The cost of this work would have to be borne by the county, unless some benefactor can be found.

The second issue which needs to be resolved is maintenance. First, the definition of exactly what is involved in new costs for the county by signing the agreement with DOT needs to occur. For instance, if the beautification only takes place in the center median, will DOT continue to maintain the outside boundaries of the right of way? A good estimate of the cost of maintenance can not be made until the design of the area is completed.

Another possible avenue for funding the added costs might be use of Tourist Development Funds, or involvement of citizens groups and civic clubs to assist in accomplishing or funding maintenance of the landscaped areas. Hopefully, these remaining problems can be resolved, and the entranceway to our county can be converted into something we would all be proud of.

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