Planter beds project for downtown Greenville has change of plans


By Kelli Ameling • Last Updated 10:50 am on Wednesday, May 09, 2012

GREENVILLE — A plan to redo 14 planter beds throughout downtown Greenville has taken a different path after lack of help and the condition of the beds.

The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) planned to team up with students from the Montcalm Area Career Center (MACC) to make over the planter beds that have not been redone since they were created 10 years ago.

In the original plan, members discussed having the 14 raised planter beds done in the spring to add new flowers and colors. The ground-level planter beds were going to be redone in a second phase during the fall.

Both phases were going to be done by students studying plant and environmental science at MACC, which is taught by Merry Kim Meyers.

During Tuesday’s DDA meeting, Greenville Assistant City Manager Cameron Van Wyngarden said Meyers no longer has the same amount of students able to help as when the plan began. Also, with the condition the flower beds are in after 10 years, more work needs to be done than expected.

Because of this, Meyers and her students are only able to do four of the 14 planter beds for the spring. They plan to do the rest during the fall when more help becomes available.

“I really see the value in using her and her students for this (project),” said Van Wyngarden, adding that he thinks the DDA should still take this route.

Van Wyngarden gave members a letter from Meyers explaining why she had to take steps back from the project instead of forward.

“The decade-old initially installed perennials and shrubbery exhibits overcrowding, lack of professional pruning and general decline due to low levels of soil nutrients,” she stated in the letter. “The soil in the planting beds has become compacted and/or eroded over time, resulting in a surface drop of over 18 inches in several raised beds. Even in beds where plants still have viability, the low levels of soil make them virtually invisible.”

The first step, Meyers said, is coming to an understanding of who owns and will maintain the flower beds.
Van Wyngarden said while Meyers was examining the beds, she ran into business owners who believed they owned the beds and planned to do something themselves to them.

But Van Wyngarden said this is not the case. When the streetscape project took place 10 years ago, the city took ownership from the doorsteps of the businesses to the road, which includes the planter beds.
Van Wyngarden said although he appreciates businesses trying to spruce up the planter beds, the DDA will take care of them.

The second step will be to pick a design for the planter beds.

“I do suggest that uniformity in the bed design not come from one plant fits all approach, but instead, might be something such as unique trellises, metal sculptures, rotating art theme to cut down on maintenance and offer fresh visuals,” Meyers stated in her letter.

The last step would include preparing the beds for the new flowers, such as lifting existing plan materials from the beds and adding new composted soil and Canadian peat moss, she said.

With this plant and the ability to only do four planter beds, the DDA thought it would be nice to start at the main crosswalk downtown and do those four planter beds.

Linda Huckleberry, co-owner of Huckleberry’s Restaurant, said she is excited to team up with the Montcalm Area Career Center to get this project rolling.

“I am excited they are willing to do it,” Huckleberry said. “We have to accept it was a bigger project than we anticipated but we have to look at it in a positive way.”

The 10 other raised planter beds, along with the ground level planters, will still be managed by the DDA this spring.

“We will continue to maintain all the other beds just as we have for the last 10 years,” Van Wyngarden said. “We will add new mulch and control the weeds as much as possible. We haven’t planted annuals in the past, but if we had volunteers, we could consider doing some this year.”

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