City gets grant to beautify Interstate 20 exit

COVINGTON - The Georgia Department of Transportation has awarded a $50,000 Gateway Grant to the city of Covington for beautification of the I-20, exit 90 interchange.

The project is a collaboration between the city, Newton County and Keep Covington-Newton Beautiful and focuses on improving the southwest corner island bordered by the westbound on and off ramps of the interstate and U.S. Highway 278.

Newton County Landscape Architect Debbie Bell designed a plan that would include planting magnolia, redbud and serviceberry trees, along with switchgrass, smooth oxeye, coneflower and black-eyed Susan.

All plants will be native, drought-tolerant species. No existing trees will be removed except four small, recently transplanted magnolias that are in poor health.

"The Gateway Grant is important for economic development in that companies want to locate in places that take pride in their community," said KCNB Director Connie Waller. "An attractive gateway certainly denotes pride in community. The project will be planned and installed as a xeriscape project and will serve as a good example of low-maintenance and low-water consuming community landscape."

Planting is expected to get under way this fall.

Newton County inmates will do the planting under supervision of local Master Gardeners.

The city will be responsible for maintenance and financial administration of the grant.

The landscape will complement a welcome sign that was placed at the site by the KCNB Business Committee.

The proposal is part of the Livable Center Initiative, a comprehensive plan to improve the U.S. Highway 278 corridor.

Gateway Grant funds may be used by communities only to buy and install plants along state highway rights of way. No matching funds are required.

The grant was prepared by a team from the city and county. City team members were Public Works Director Billy Bouchillon and Senior Planner Michelle Larsen. County team members included Waller, arborist Debbie Bell and Laurie Riley with KCNB.

The Board of Commissioners and City Council have pledged support for the project.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum