Friday, April 19, 2002

George Mindling Column 4-19-2002


Beautification Plan under Discussion


The beautification of Tamiami Trail has been an issue in Port Charlotte for years. Several projects have had partial success, but most of the road and almost all of the other thoroughfares remain sodded.

The areas that have been successfully planted stand apart from the barren stretches of median and roadway to show what can be accomplished if the community at large wants it to happen. The reasons for not beautifying the right-of-way range from financial shortcomings to incredible shortsightedness.

Several merchants complained during one campaign to beautify the median that growth in the center of the median would block the view of their establishments from the traffic on the other side of the roadway. The argument that it is considered safe to drive 45 mph, the legal speed limit, while rubbernecking across three lanes of oncoming traffic, and a two-lane access road to boot, to look at businesses on the driver's left side, is seriously flawed.

There is another way. Let businesses announce they support the median beautification fronting their areas of roadway with signs announcing their participation in the program.

John Milone of the Committee of 100, is spearheading the group's proposal to adapt the successful program used by the city of Gainesville. The Landscape Island Sponsor Program used by Gainesville is a joint venture between the city and the business community.

Charlotte County would be the official sponsor responsible for the engineering and landscape plans. while the business participants remove weeds, litter, debris and dead foliage on an agreed upon schedule.

The county and the business community need to find the balance that encourages not only business participation, but support from the community as a whole. The plan is currently under discussion with Charlotte County officials. John met recently with Commissioner Sara Devos to discuss the beautification proposal. and found Devos enthusiastic about the project. The Landscape Island Plan is very important to the success of Gainesville's traffic calming, street scape and pedestrian safety goals.

Port Charlotte can expect similar results from a successful beautification program. The county is currently reviewing the plan and recommendation is expected shortly. To minimize costs, the plants and trees used should be xeriscape-type plants. especially those indigenous to our area. They won't require watering or irrigation and they don't need to form a barrier wall down the middle of U.S. 41.

Beautification is the goal. The sponsorship signs will not be a distraction if done properly and with a general concept of uniformity. If you arc new to the area and need to look at each building as you drive. for safety's sake, simply make a trip down the other side to take it all in! Traffic will flow better and safer. and we'll have a better looking community for all of us to enjoy.

George Mindling © 2002

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