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Revitalization plans grow

First of two parts.

LaGRANGE — What would Georgia be like if there were no more butterflies? If the organizers behind The Ray on Interstate 85 have their say, we’ll never have to find out.

The Ray is the name for the section of highway on I-85 between exit 2 in West Point and exit 18 at Lafayette Parkway, which has been expanded to include the Georgia Visitor Information Center in West Point. The Ray C. Anderson Foundation plans to introduce native plants along the highway to beautify the area and attract pollinators. It is working in conjunction with the Georgia Department of Transportation and other groups to create a green corridor on the highway that they hope will be defined by zero emissions.

Bees and butterflies

“After planting several wildflower plots … it really can be a (pollinator) corridor,” Harriet Langford of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation told LaGrange City Council members during a meeting Tuesday. “And I don’t know if you know this, but with climate change, Georgia has become more of the trail for the bees and butterflies, so we know that butterflies have to make it to South America and back. So, we think this is a great opportunity to really put LaGrange on the map for trying something really special.”

Members of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia, the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Georgia Conservancy and the Chattahoochee Nature Center are all expected to help break ground on a 7,000 square foot pollinator garden on Saturday at the Georgia Visitor Information Center in West Point. According to a press release, the pollinator garden will be the first of its type installed at any Georgia DOT facility.

The garden is expected to use compost supplied by John Flournoy of Columbus, more than 2,000 transplanted pollinator plants from the Chattahoochee Nature Center, and supplies provided by the Georgia Conservancy. It would be one of the first steps to encouraging pollinators along the proposed corridor.

“I’m just really glad to hear that you say something about the bees and the butterflies,” said Council Member W.T. Edmondson of The Ray plan at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. “I’m just very concerned about that.”

Numerous reports of honey bee deaths across North America has brought the issue of declining numbers of pollinators to national attention leading President Obama to create the Pollinator Health Task Force in 2014. The task force’s goals are to bring honey bee populations back to sustainable levels, increase monarch butterfly populations and restore or enhance 7 million acres of pollinator lands. These goals coupled with new policies aimed to help pollinators are seen as important because of the effect that pollinators have on food crops.

“Pollinators are responsible for one in every three bites of food we take, with honey bees alone increasing our nation’s crop values by more than 15 billion dollars each year,” according to the Pollinator Partnership Action Plan, released by the Pollinator Health Task Force in June.

The pollinator garden plans to use purple coneflowers, butterfly weed, brown-eyed Susans, wild bergamot, spotted horse mint and others plants to create a welcoming environment for pollinators. The Chattahoochee Nature Center estimates that Wintering Monarch Butterflies have declined by 75 percent since the mid-1990s.

“The key to planting pollinators is to plant things that will keep blooming,” said Brian Maddy, Troup County extension agent. “Anything that anyone is doing that promotes bees and pollinators is good.”

The Georgia DOT releases seed packs each fall to raise awareness for pollinators. The seeds are paid for through the sale of wildflower licence plates, and the seed mix will be produced in partnership with The Ray this year. The Georgia DOT won the 2016 North American Pollinator Protection Campaign Pollinator Roadside Management Award last month. The award recognizes transportation agencies that lead the field in pollinator-friendly roadside practices.

Recycling hits the road

The Ray C. Anderson Foundation is also pushing for the use of crumb rubber asphalt, a pavement material that mixes asphalt with crumb rubber from old tires. The asphalt is known for its noise reduction properties and was used in the Quiet Pavement Program in Arizona in 2013 that aimed to create a quieter ride for motorists. This type of asphalt has also been used in California, Florida, South Carolina and Texas road projects.

“We’re really pushing for something that we really want to do which we think would be a value for this area (which) is the repurposed scrapped tires incorporated into your asphalt which is called crumb rubber asphalt,” said Langford. “… It is very porous, so it allows water to flow through and off the sides, so it is much safer, and we are cleaning up illegal tire dumps.”

The recycling aspect of crumb rubber asphalt appeals to the Ray C. Anderson Foundation’s goal of a zero emissions corridor, and according to reports from the California DOT, it will require less maintenance than standard asphalt.

“Tires and used tires is a problem all over the country,” said Scott Landa, executive director of Keep Troup Beautiful. “… Anything that keeps us from quote, throwing something away, because there is no away.”

Pick up the Weekend edition of LaGrange Daily News or go to lagrangenews.com to read the second part of this story about other projects planned for The Ray, including solar panel-covered roads.

Landscape architect Gary Gullatte talks to LaGrange City Council, city staff and a meeting attendee on Tuesday about design ideas for The Ray, a 16-mile stretch of road on Interstate 85 between West Point and LaGrange planned to use sustainable materials and promote zero emissions.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/web1_web0916TheRay02-4.jpgLandscape architect Gary Gullatte talks to LaGrange City Council, city staff and a meeting attendee on Tuesday about design ideas for The Ray, a 16-mile stretch of road on Interstate 85 between West Point and LaGrange planned to use sustainable materials and promote zero emissions. Matthew Strother | Daily News
Workers dump compost supplied by John Flournoy of Columbus at the Georgia Welcome Center on Interstate 85 in West Point for the groundbreaking on a 7,000 square foot pollinator garden on Saturday. Members of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia, the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Georgia Conservancy and the Chattahoochee Nature Center are all expected to participate.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/web1_web0916TheRay01-2.jpgWorkers dump compost supplied by John Flournoy of Columbus at the Georgia Welcome Center on Interstate 85 in West Point for the groundbreaking on a 7,000 square foot pollinator garden on Saturday. Members of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia, the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Georgia Conservancy and the Chattahoochee Nature Center are all expected to participate. Contributed | Georgia Conservancy
Sustainable ideas taking shape on The Ray

By Alicia B. Hill

Daily News correspondent

Alicia B. Hill is a correspondent for LaGrange Daily News. Reach the office at 706-884-7311.