The Union Recorder

Local News

June 25, 2014

City awarded grant to spruce up southern historic district

MILLEDGEVILLE — The City of Milledgeville earned a $39,000 GATEway grant toward landscape improvements along Franklin Street between Wilkinson and Clarke streets.

Memory Hill Cemetery frontage improvements are the main focus of the monies. The grant doesn't require local match.

Public Works Director Frank Baugh said the Friends of the Baldwin County Cemeteries approached the department last fall hoping to improve the cemetery entrance.

“At about the same time, we saw this GATEway grant opportunity. It occurred to us that we could work all this together,” Baugh said.

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) recently awarded more than $1.3 million for the 2014 GATEway grants to 43 local government entities around the state.

The GATEway grant program uses revenue collected from permit fees for vegetation removal in front of outdoor advertising signs.

Funds from the grants are used to reimburse local government when purchasing and installing plant material for landscape projects on state routes.

Any organization, local government or state agency can apply for a grant up to $50,000 contingent upon authorization by a local government and an agreement to perpetually maintain the project.

A primary goal of the program is to fund enduring enhancements to roadsides utilized by the traveling public. Project proposals ranged from interstate interchange panoramas to landscape embellishment of city entrance signs.

The funds may be used only for landscape plant material and its installation for the furtherance of roadside enhancement and beautification projects.

The Franklin Street segment of State Route 243 fronts Memory Hill Cemetery, part of the original “Cemetery Square” laid out at Milledgeville's founding.

In Memory Hill, a multitude of prominent 19th century graves are interspersed among live oaks, red cedars and assorted native hardwoods making this cemetery a magnet for tourists. The grand, stately landscaping inside Memory Hill contrasts markedly with the relatively barren frontage that forms the gateway to the city's historic district.

Community organizations such as the Convention & Visitors Bureau, Friends of Baldwin County Cemeteries and the Georgia Old Capital Museum Society supported the grant application and future work on Franklin Street.

Erosion and aging Bradford pear trees are a concern. The Friends of Cemeteries said this grant would be “invaluable to improving the visual entry to the cemetery, as well as along the full block of Franklin Street.”

The city's GATEway concept plan incorporates GDOT size and spacing specifications with a focus on elimination of non-native species, repositioning of existing specimens and addition of assorted native landscaping to achieve both visual enhancement and right-of-way serviceability.

Once established, proposed landscape design will lower maintenance requirements on the steep embankments and mitigate future erosion issues where the right-of-way overlaps Memory Hill Cemetery.

The cleaning and clearing portion of the concept will also remove and control the re-growth of invasive plant material, as well as eliminate imminent hazard to vehicular and pedestrian traffic associated with diseased and failing trees on the right-of-way.

The design concept seeks to draw interest along the street frontage by adding variety and color.

The currently undesirable straight-line planting of crepe myrtle will transform into a natural, serpentine flow of sod and mulched landscape beds.

Baugh thanked Public Works Supervisor Fancy Robinson's landscape architecture expertise for the plant choices.

Robinson wants a better design without straight lines and tall fences to open up visual corridors and remove an intimidating look.

Eight existing crepe myrtle that display key features will be relocated across the street.

The city has eight months to submit an application before work begins.

“We have to take it from concept to conception, and there's a lot of work in between those two,” Robinson said.

Once approved through a Special Encroachment Permit, the city will execute the project combining the contracted portion with in-kind staff participation.

“I think we can supplement with in-house labor and volunteers to achieve everything we are trying to achieve,” Robinson said.

City Public Works staff will oversee project management, has funding programmed for right-of-way maintenance and will incorporate seasonal as well as recurring maintenance tasks into our public works crew schedules.


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