Overpass work leaves many questions
Last week we took some big steps in hoping to change the appearance of the Liberty Road overpass. Inmate crews along with Master Gardeners, volunteers, city, state and county workers spent much of the day Tuesday and Wednesday working to erase some of the most neglected areas. We did have some people concerned about the project, so I will try to address some of the questions poised to us during the project:
Q. Why are you tearing up what the state spent so much money putting down?
I will admit, I hate as much as anyone to see the well-planned landscaping removed. However, I would rather see something with minimal landscaping halfway maintained than something perfectly landscaped not maintained. If you simply drive down Liberty Road for a quarter mile from the Natchez Trace overpass past the National Guard armory to the Liberty Road overpass in question, you will find your answer. What looks better, from the Natchez Trace overpass to the armory or from the armory to the Liberty Road overpass? I think most would pick the simple design of mowed grass and crepe myrtles over the areas in question.
The problem and the solution all stems from the same cause, money. There is simply no money in anyone’s budget to maintain the scope of work required to keep this intersection where it should be to validate its current status. Therefore, we are making it significantly lower to maintain financially and easier to care for.
Q. Are y’all throwing all the flowers and shrubs away?
The Adams County Master Gardeners were there both days to save many of the plants to be used in other community projects. In fact, if you go down Franklin and Main Street you will notice lots have already been planted under the crepe myrtles in many blocks of downtown. Some volunteers from Cathedral have replanted many around their schools, and last weekend volunteers from First Baptist Church Natchez planted over 100 daylilies on the walking trails below the bluff. Many more will be used to beautify the community in other areas. Many however were discarded because of the abundance of plant material and damage during removal.
Q. What will it look like now?
All the areas where plants were removed have been seeded with Bermuda grass seeds. However, please be patient. It will take about 14 days to germinate, then a few more weeks before its ready to cut. In the meantime, it will probably get worse before it gets better. We did not remove any of the shrubs. They were weeded; therefore, without maintenance they may have more weed growth in them before long. Because of the size of the area there were also many areas that we never even made it to work on, so another work session is likely in the near future.
Q. Why can’t the inmates maintain it?
I don’t think many people realize the scope of this project. Based on the design plans, the site includes 672 trees and 68,362 shrubs and ground-covering plants covering 143,242 square feet of bedding area needing maintenance. A project of this magnitude would require much more than two crews of inmates once a month. Keep in mind these inmate work crews are also responsible for picking up trash on county roads and helping with other maintenance projects on a daily basis, and much more.
It would require one crew dedicated almost solely to this project to have it properly maintained year round.
Just think, we had approximately 50 people with inmates and volunteers for two full days, and we only touched less than a third of the area.
Q. Are more changes planned in the future?
Next week is national volunteer week. Some groups have already asked about going to do additional needed work out there again. As far as removal of other plants, there were 3,276 Indian Hawthorne originally installed; none were removed. However, if they become swallowed in weeds again a more feasible maintenance option may need to be looked at.
Irrigation will likely need to be removed in many places where grass cutting will begin. When installed, they were designed to be below the surface in many places with pop-up sprinklers, but the contract failed to do, so placing them directly in the way of everything above the ground level. Because of this, many of the sprinkler heads are already broken off, so utilizing the irrigation system for the next few weeks is not a likely option.
I would like to once again thank everyone that volunteered to help out during this clean up and ask the public to be patient as the site continues to change over the next few weeks and months. Hopefully after everything is completed we can have an intersection that still makes our city proud.
David Carter is the Adams County Supervisor for District 2 and is director of the Adams County Extension Service.