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Posted: April 3, 2009 12:00 a.m.

Covington gains beautification grant

$50,000 reimbursed for sprucing up exit 90 entrance ramp

The City of Covington received a $50,000 reimbursement grant from the state to continue its efforts to beautify the city’s entrance off the Interstate 20.

The Department of Transportation’s Gateway Grant will reimburse the city for money spent on landscaping the triangular area encompassed by U.S. Highway 278 and the entrance ramps to exit 90 on I-20 westbound, County Landscape Architect Debbie Bell said. Gateway Grant money can only be used to buy and install plants along state highway right-of-ways.

The city of Covington, Newton County and Keep Covington/Newton Beautiful are working together on the project because it will benefit all three entities. Laurie Riley, Program Education Specialist for KCNB, said magnolia, redbud and serviceberry trees and switchgrass, smooth oxeye, coneflower and black-eyed Susan would be planted in the area. All of these plants are native to Georgia and are drought-tolerant.

However, the trees, grass and flowers will not be planted until 2010 because of the preparations needed to deal with drought conditions. Bell said the soil will first be improved by adding composted mulch, which will be allowed to decompose until the fall of 2010, the optimum planting season for these types of plants. Planting in the fall allows the plants to put down roots in the winter so they don’t have to be watered as much during the spring and summer, the primary drought times, Bell said.

The city will begin improving the soil as soon as they receive an encroachment permit from the DOT. Bell said she expects the mulch to be laid down over the next few months. Depending on the pricing of the plants, the city may be able to landscape additional areas along U.S. 278, she said.

KCNB Executive Director Connie Waller said the groups chose the I-20 area, because KCNB had already been doing beautification there, including the erection of an entrance sign in 2008.

"We’re just excited we found a great way to enhance the community," Waller said. "The city, county and KCNB see the benefit of an attractive city. It’s an economic development benefit for the community."

The three groups will continue to apply for future Gateway Grants and other beautification funding. Waller said the beautification of U.S. 278 will be KCNB’s main focus in the future.

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