Monday, January 28, 2019

Oconee County Begins Beautification Of Mars Hill Road Corridor

***Tree Planting Underway***

Oconee County has begun planting trees along Mars Hill Road in a $375,115 beautification effort for the recently completed roadway.

More than 750 trees–both native and nonnative verities–will be planted along the sides of and in the median strips of the roadway over the next two months.

The goal is to “create a parkway that residents can be proud of,” according to Oconee County Chairman John Daniell.

The Georgia Department of Transportation has not yet turned the roadway back to the county, as it is expected to do, but Daniell said the county is moving ahead with the planting even without that action by the state.

After the trees are planted, they will be watered, mulched, and staked as needed, according to a news release issued by the county last week. After the first year, Oconee County will contract with tree care experts for management of the trees.

Details Of Planting

Crews from Nasworthy Landscaping and Irrigation Inc., 2041 Pete Dickens Road north of SR 316 near Bogart, were active on the roadway today.

Workers Planting In Median 1/28/2019
Looking South With Barber Creek Bridge Beyond Workers
Hodges Mill Road In Distance

The company is providing the trees and will be responsible for them for the first year. The trees are guaranteed for that year and will be replaced at no cost if they fail, according to the county’s news release.

The company will plant a total of 761 trees, with major trees spaced 50 feet apart throughout the length of the corridor and secondary trees interspersed to provide color and seasonal interest, according to the news release.

Fifty different tree species and cultivars, including elms, cedars, dogwoods, redbuds, oaks, and maples, will be planted.

The trees were chosen with an emphasis on native species that will grow well in local soil, according to the news release. The trees will provide color and foliage this year and will become well-established with greater size and stature over a ten-year time line, the release said.

The county is expecting the planting to be completed by the middle of March, weather permitting.

Native And Non-Native

The four types of oak trees being planted are native trees, Diane Baggett, Oconee County communications manager, told me in an email message earlier today.

Included are red oaks (Quercus Shumardii and Quercus Coccinea) and white oaks (Quercus Lyrata and Quercus Bicolor), Baggett said.

Other native trees being used are Flowering Dogwoods (Cornus Florida), Eastern Redbuds (cercis Canadensis), Kentucky Yellowoods (Cladrastis Kentukea), White Fringetrees (Chionanthus Virginicus) and Bald Cypress (Taxodium Distichum), according to Baggett.

A native green ash (Fraxinus Pennsylvanica) also is being planted.

Nonnatives will be used to create year-round color for visual appeal, Keep Oconee County Beautiful Commission Executive Director Cindy Pritchard told me in an email message on Thursday.

Committee Project

Pritchard was a member of a committee of citizens that began working in March of last year to choose and locate the trees.

Beall & Company Rendition of Planting
Looking South At Hodges Mill Road Intersection

The committee began its work by creating a base map using drone fly-over images to choose ideal tree sites, according to the county’s news release issued last Wednesday.

The selected sites could not interfere with fire hydrants, storm drains, or other components of the existing infrastructure, according to the release.

The committee was able to choose and tag trees last March to get a prime selection of quality trees to plant this year, the release stated.

Members who have been with the committee since its beginning phases are Board of Commissioners Chairman Daniell, University of Georgia Professor of Horticulture Emeritus Michael Dirr, landscape architect Ken Beall, and Pritchard, according to Baggett.

Other citizens who have worked on the project over the last year are Stuart Cofer, Brad Davis, Lisa Douglas, Scott Nasworthy, and Steve Wortham, Baggett wrote.

Funding For Project

In May of last year the Oconee County Industrial Development Authority voted to spend up to $375,115 on a contract to beautify Mars Hill Road and the Oconee Connector from SR 316 to Hog Mountain Road.

Funding for the beautification project is coming from money the county borrowed through bond sales when it built Parkway Boulevard as part of the expansion of Epps Bridge Centre.

The Authority awarded Ken Beall of Beall and Associates the contract for the work on the Mars Hill beautification.

To obtain state funding for reconstruction of Mars Hill Road, the county had to turn Mars Hill Road over to the state, which imposed state and federal standards.

Board of Commissioners Chair Daniell, who sits on the Industrial Development Authority, said at that May meeting that he expected the state to turn the road back to the county in the fall.

Baggett told me in an email message last Thursday that the county does not have “a firm date yet for the turnover of the road” and “GDOT’s contractor is still working through punch list items.”

Daniell told me in an email message that same day “We are moving forward at this time.”

PowerPoint Of Planting

Beall and Associates created what it called a “Proposed Planting Illustrative Render” to show the plans for the completed roadway.

Those plans are available for viewing on the county web site.

Baggett provided me a PDF of the PowerPoint slide show, and I have put it on the Oconee County Observations site.

With the PDF of the slide show, it is possible to examine the entire project, starting at SR 316 and end at Hog Mountain Road.

The image of the intersection of Mars Hill Road and Hodges Mill Road above is taken from that PDF file.

Beall told the Development Authority that one of the more challenging parts of the project was that wall.

Baggett told me in an email message that the plan for the wall at Hodges Mill includes trees and vines.

Daniell On Project

“The Mars Hill tree planting project will create a parkway that residents can be proud of,” Commission Chair Daniell is quoted as saying in the news release.

“We are pleased to be able to add these trees to our community with a well-thought out plan for their placement and care,” he added.

We are grateful for the expertise and dedication of our committee members in seeing this project through to completion,” he said.

“Oconee County has been committed to getting this project done the right way, with original thinking and a sense of appropriate timing,” horticulturist Dirr is quoted in the news release as saying.

“The Mars Hill Corridor Arboretum is a unique project that will serve as a model for other communities,” Dirr added.


Unknown said...

Residents on Riverhaven Lane are in process of buying and placing a new sign for the neighborhood to replace the two that were taken by the county/state without compensation. It appears from the image above that a tree will likely be planted right in front of the sign's planned location. Who can we talk to to hopefully prevent the sign from being obscured?

Lee Becker said...

I would call Commission Chair Daniell.

Anonymous said...

Observed all of the trees placed directly under power lines this morning. In ten years, we will have trees with the tops cut out, possibly killing them altogether. Who can explain this govt waste. I guess we are just accustomed to it by now.