The Ray beautification eyes I-85 exit 13

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 7, 2016

LaGRANGE — The scenic highways of America: the Hana Highway in Hawaii, the Pacific Coast Highway in California, Route 66 through the midwest — and Interstate 85 in Georgia?

According to plans of The Ray project discussed at Tuesday’s Troup County Commission meeting, the idea might not remain far from the mark, at least for the stretch of highway between I-85 exit 2 in West Point and exit 18 at Lafayette Parkway. The section of the highway referred to as The Ray, after Interface founder Ray C. Anderson, is scheduled to receive its first round of landscaping this fall.

“We have worked with Gary Gullatte, and we have gotten a full master plan for our five interchanges along the Ray on 85,” said Harriet Langford of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation during Tuesday’s County Commission meeting. “… The foundation will be bookending exit 2 and exit 18 with beautification in the median that Gary (Gullatte) has designed for us. We are really excited about that. This will be our first instillation, and we hope for many more. … In the excitement, we are starting to feel fall is starting to get here, and we know that is a great time for planting, so we look forward to doing that.”

Gary Gullatte’s architectural landscaping company is behind the Fort Benning gateway, the Columbus River Walk and the Children’s Fountain at Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta. He plans to work on Whitesville Road at I-85, where the Great Wolf Lodge will be located, as one of the first sections of the project. On that section, he plans to make use of the bridge near the exit, existing vegetation and the amphitheatre type setting.

“Let’s paint with a broad brush,” said Gullatte, describing his plan. “… Just to (consider) masses of plantings. … I’m thinking that that application might work here at exit 13.”

The project is estimated to cover roughly 35 acres and is partially funded by a $50,000 grant for landscaping from the Georgia Department of Transportation. Gullatte estimates that the full landscape plan would cost $300,000. The proposed landscaping of The Ray would encourage bees and butterflies by providing flowering plants to attract pollinators.

“We’re looking at really creating a butterfly corridor along this highway,” Langford said. “We feel like that would really be a benefit for the bees and butterflies, so this will be some wild flowers that we will incorporate right along the way also. We’ll really put it out there make it look pretty.”

A pollinator garden is also planned to open at the West Point Welcome Center near Kia on Sept. 17 as part of the project.

By Alicia B. Hill

Daily News correspondent

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