Milton to start streetscape improvements

Sidewalks, trees and open spaces in downtown Milton will soon see an upgrade.

The City plans to start implementing Phase One of the new Streetscape Plan in mid to late March when the weather warms up. However, some of the changes have already begun.

The streetscape plan was approved at the Feb. 12 City Council meeting and approximately $21,000 is expected to be spent on beautifying the downtown area.

Lee Willingham, head of the landscape department with the City, has put together a preliminary design plan that incorporates removing tree grates and pavers to replace them with mulch and other plant material, adding hanging flowers to light poles, and replacing certain trees with more pedestrian friendly ones.

The Streetscape redevelopment plan is divided into six phases: the Riverwalk; Willing Street; Highway 90; South Elmira and Oak Street; Fountain Park; and Canal Street.

As part of phase one, tree grates on Oak Street have already been removed and mulched. According to Willingham, tree grates and pavers become trip hazards. Along Willing Street and Highway 90 the grates will also be replaced with mulch and plant material, such as Breeze Grass and "Yellow" Lantana.

"Basically (the goal is) to open it up a little," Willingham said. "A lot of the plant materials will also be tied into the medians that will be going into Highway 90."

To remove certain tree grates downtown, the large planters - approximately 40 placed by Main Street Milton - will need to be removed.

Vernon Compton, a board member with Main Street Milton, said the organization has a plan to move the planters to other places downtown.

"We've had an interest from many businesses and property owners in the downtown that felt they were a great addition," Compton said. "We'll move them onto private property. That's our goal, to find the best place to keep them so they can still have a positive impact downtown."

Also in phase one, existing Winged Elms in the Riverwalk area will be replaced with Bosque Elms. Willingham said the new trees will be more pedestrian friendly because they are "limbed up" and won't hang over the sidewalks.

According to Compton, who spoke at the City Council meeting on Feb. 12, the Winged Elms were planted with grant money under a three-year contract - which is up in June. He said seeing the Winged Elms taken out is a shame because the City and Main Street Milton put a lot of work into the selection of the trees; however, he is thrilled that the City plans to transplant the trees elsewhere.

"We picked out ones that were most hurricane resistant, based on University of Florida research," Compton said. "They were such an investment of tax dollars and volunteer efforts."

"(Transplanting) the trees now should be fine as long as they're given plenty of water. We still want to be of help in any way we can," Compton said.

Willingham said the Winged Elms will be transplanted in local parks. And the new Bosque Elms, besides being more pedestrian friendly, are also durable trees.

Certain aspects, such as the hanging planters will not be implement yet since they are not funded.

"I'd like to do the (entire Streetscape Plan) as soon as possible, but it's budget dependent," Willingham said.