While it might be difficult to envision after months of orange cones, snaking tail lights and layers of new asphalt and concrete, one of Beaufort’s main commercial thoroughfares may be on its way to having a “quintessential Lowcountry” look.
More than 150 trees will soon be planted to line Boundary Street and fill its new medians as part of a landscaping plan for the sun-setting road project. The young trees won’t have their intended effect for years, but the city says the payoff will be worth the wait.
“It will turn Boundary Street into an iconic entryway to the city,” Beaufort landscape architect Brian Franklin said. “As these trees mature, it will be quintessential Lowcountry. It will help add a pedestrian element to that stretch of Boundary. That area will be much more walkable and enjoyable to walk as well because of the trees.”
More than 100 live oaks and dozens of palm trees will be planted along Boundary in the next few weeks, Franklin said. The oaks are a variety that grow more upright and were chosen to avoid sprawling branches that could interfere with traffic.
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About a quarter of the oaks will be planted in new, raised center medians. The rest will line the sides of the road, which will no longer have utility poles when finished.
The oaks could grow to 40-50 feet, Franklin said, and will be spaced about as far apart.
The $33 million project — funded through a federal grant, penny sales tax and special tax district — is expected to wrap up in March.
Trees “have been integral to the project” and are considered part of the infrastructure, city planning director Libby Anderson said during a presentation to City Council last month.
The plants will help retain rain water and keep it from carrying harmful chemicals from the roadway into the nearby marsh, city officials say. Trees also will serve as a barrier between the cars on the roadway and people walking on newly constructed sidewalks.
Planting locations were chosen carefully so as to not interfere with drivers’ line of sight, Franklin said.
The landscape contractor will be responsible for the trees’ care during the first year.
“They should acclimate quickly and grow over time,” Franklin said. “In my lifetime, in your lifetime, they’ll be nice trees, but they won’t be the iconic trees you see around here. That takes hundreds of years, not tens of years.”