Beaufort County will begin sprucing up the medians along U.S. 278 in greater Bluffton later this year by planting trees, shrubs and flowers.
Two trial projects will showcase new landscaping in the medians at the entrance to the Belfair community at Buck Island Road and the mile-long stretch between Tanger Outlet centers 1 and 2.
The county's Southern Corridor Beautification Board worked with landscape architecture firm J.K. Tiller Associates to design the improvements, board vice chairman Glenn Stanford said.
They are the first steps of a program to landscape all the medians on the 10-mile stretch of U.S. 278, from S.C. 170 to the bridges to Hilton Head Island.
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"That section of the highway is the gateway to Hilton Head Island and, therefore, to a lot of the tourist business here," Stanford said. "The idea is simply to make that gateway as attractive as possible."
The designs largely mirror the landscaping already in medians on William Hilton Parkway on Hilton Head, landscape architect Josh Tiller said.
"We're going to have a lot of hardy native plants that can withstand drought conditions," Tiller said. Those include Spartina and muhly grasses, saw palmettos and crape myrtles.
The landscaping is to begin at Belfair before the end of the year, and possibly at the beginning of 2015 near Tanger, Stanford said.
Belfair and Tanger, not the county, will each pay for their median projects, assistant county attorney Allison Coppage said.
Tanger has committed $320,000, agreed to in its development agreement with the county before the center was built, Stanford said.
Belfair will pay more than $100,000 through contributions it has made to a county reforestation fund, Stanford said. The community will also pay to maintain its portion of the median, he added.
That sets a good example for other businesses, which might contribute to their portion of the median, Coppage said, noting every business along the corridor will benefit from the improvements.
The Southern Corridor Beautification Board hopes to work next with Rose Hill Plantation on a similar project for medians there, Stanford said.
"The idea has always been to draw in the other stakeholders up and down 278," Stanford said. "Our feeling is that once we get something done out there, that will put some incentive out there for other property owners."
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