Medians' facelift a tool for increasing tourism

With tourism industry increasingly competitive, it's the little things that can make a difference.

newsroom@islandpacket.comApril 10, 2014 

It seems like a little thing -- a new landscaping project to spruce up the U.S. 278 medians along the 10-mile stretch between S.C. 170 to the bridges of Hilton Head Island.

But in today's competitive tourism environment, where every town and city fancies itself a tourist destination and is working to that end, it's worthwhile for Hilton Head and its surrounding communities to take note of the little things that give them a competitive edge.

Our region has won a place in many visitors' hearts because of its natural beauty, including serene beaches that lack high-density development, moss-laden oaks that are home to a variety of birds and fresh oysters plucked from the May River and served in local restaurants.

In such a location, it's best not to underestimate the pleasing aesthetic of more well-placed native plants including palmetto trees, crape myrtles and muhly grasses.

To that end, Beaufort County is planning two landscaping projects at the entrance to the Belfair community at Buck Island Road and the mile-long stretch between Tanger Outlet centers 1 and 2. It's the first step of a program to landscape all the medians along the 10-mile stretch. The new landscaping will mirror the existing, attractive plantings already in medians on William Hilton Parkway on Hilton Head.

Members of the county's Southern Corridor Beautification Board, who are overseeing the project, say it's important to improve the stretch of road because it's the gateway to Hilton Head Island.

That is indeed true, but the town of Bluffton is also working hard to forge a unique identity and attract visitors to is own hot spots, including Old Town. It, along with the other communities along 278, should and will benefit from the project as much as Hilton Head Island.

Equally pleasing is that this county project won't put taxpayers on the hook.

Tanger has committed $320,000 to sprucing up its medians, as agreed to in its development agreement with the county before the centers were built. And Belfair will pay more than $100,000 through contributions it has made to a county reforestation fund. The community will also pay to maintain its medians once the plantings are complete.

This sets an admirable precedent for future improvements, including the median outside of Rose Hill Plantation, where the beautification board hopes to next work.

These businesses and neighborhoods will certainly benefit from the aesthetic improvements. It's good they stand ready to pay for them.

And we'll all benefit from the oohs and aahs of tourists who will hopefully decide to visit our area again and again.

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