Color, vegetation to spring up in Fenwick Island

Fenwick Island Beautification Committee members are ready to move forward with their latest project designed to improve the looks of the beachside town: a series of decorative banners to add a splash of design and color to Coastal Highway year-round.

Committee members discussed the project at their March 6 meeting, reviewing a series of sketches from Jessica Clark, the wife of Town Council Member Chris Clark, who serves on the committee and owns a local art gallery with his wife. Ranging from starfish to flip-flops, surfboards to lighthouses, such designs promise to highlight the town’s seaside locale.

There is to be a series of at least three seasonal designs, spanning spring, summer and fall, and leading into the traditional display of holiday lights over the winter. But the committee remains undecided on exactly what designs will be used, needing further research to price options for custom banners versus pre-made designs.

Chris Clark estimated the cost per banner at $100 to $200, multiplied over the 18 display spots planned on the town’s utility poles, where the holiday lights are displayed each winter. That’s as much as $3,600 per design for a complete set, or nearly $11,000 for the full year-round display. Committee members have focused on durability as a key factor in selecting a type and manufacturer for the banners, to maximize the value of the project for the town.

Committee Chairwoman and Town Council member Vicki Carmean noted remaining funds in the Beautification Committee’s budget for the current fiscal year and inquired with Chris Clark as to whether the town’s Commercial Liaison Committee, which he chairs, would be willing to chip in from its budget.

Clark said the commercial group was enthusiastic about the project, too, having previously stated that it would serve to help identify the town as a destination, as well as beautifying it for residents and visitors. He said two years of minimal spending in the commercial committee would mean they could easily help with the cost of the banner project.

With two budgets from which to draw, the initial cost of one or two seasons’ worth of banners could be paid out in the near future, with the banners going up as soon as this fall. Additional funds could be allotted for the remaining seasons from the 2007 fiscal-year budget.

Also at the March 6 meeting, Carmean noted that Public Works Supervisor Neil Hanrahan had already moved on the committee’s request for bins to contain beachside trash cans, fabricating one of a section of beach fencing to match the neighboring fence. Committee members considered and rejected the notion of signs at the locations asking beachgoers to use the cans for beach trash only, citing the potential to add visual clutter.

Committee members are still researching their project involving “smokers’ outposts” for the town hall and at commercial centers in the town. Once the decision on which design to purchase for town hall is made, the town has offered to help the businesses pay for some of the expense of adding the outposts to their locations, in an effort to contain refuse. A similar project for public trash bins at town hall and the commercial centers is also under discussion.

Moving on to new ideas for beautifying the town, committee members focused their gaze on the newly reconstructed beach crossovers. Carmean said she envisioned a well-planted display running from the street to the dunes at each of the public street ends where crossovers are located. The locations include areas of town easement for which the public works department is already charged with maintenance and mowing.

Clark said he would also like to investigate whether the town could add plantings to the dunes themselves, to add visual interest beyond basic dune grasses and provide further vegetation to support the dunes’ health.

The committee members discussed “xeroscape” options for both areas, focusing on low-maintenance plants that would not need regular care or large amounts of water, and which would be salt-tolerant. Carmean emphasized the beauty of succulents for the purpose while rejecting cactuses as too prickly. And yuccas were also mentioned.

Carmean said she planned to consult with State Forester Brian Hall, who helped the committee get permission and grants for the town’s median beautification, as to planting options for the new project, as well as to inquire about possible grants to help pay for it. She said she expected a three-year plan for completion of the project, with a start perhaps in the fall of 2007.

Hall is also the town’s contact person for an expected honor — officially being named as a Tree City USA, thanks to efforts to plant trees. The recognition is anticipated for this year’s Arbor Day festivities.

Committee members are also keen to add more color to the town’s existing plantings, aiming for spring color from bulbs in the town park and the medians in the near future.

The medians are currently under state care that prohibits such additional plantings by the town, but that limit is to end in the early summer this year, leaving the committee members to aim for the fall bulb planting season and beds full of crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths and tulips.

Those same flowers would be added to the town park, committee members said. And Carmean announced plans for the Barefoot Gardeners club to plant a children’s/butterfly garden in the park as well.

Carmean also announced a happy reunion between the town and one of its planting pots. The pot, formerly located at what was Libby’s restaurant, was sold as part of the recent auction of property there. The town inquired with Emmert Auctions as to where it had gone, only to discover that it had been sold for $75, despite being town property.

With the wayward pot valued at more than $300 due to its special weather-resistant design and promises made to reimburse the town, effort was put into tracking the pot down and it was returned last week, “a little worse for the wear,” according to Carmean.

Beautification Committee members are also looking forward to spreading some spring color to local gardens, planning to bring back the committee’s crepe myrtle sale in the spring of 2007, after a year’s absence.

With all those plans in the works, committee members set their next meeting for Monday, April 3, at 8:30 a.m.