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I-95 tree mishap spawns release of beautification plan from GDOT

After the tree removal controversy along I-95 and I-16, local state legislators were able to get the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) to release a beautification plan.

At the leading of State Representative Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine), with the support of State Representatives Jeff Jones (R-Brunswick) and Don Hogan (R-St. Simon’s Island), the GDOT will begin an interstate beautification plan on Interstates 95 and 16 in Camden County after thousands of trees were removed along I-95 causing tremendous noise for residents.

GDOT sent scant notification in one press release and a social media in Nov. of 2017 which did not express their intense vegetation removal plan. The only communication about the plan was that GDOT was going to effectively remove vegetation for safety issues to cut down on road fatalities.

The beautification process plans for the exits will start with “grassing” the area followed by flower plots, pollinators, phased in around July, and completed with tree planting in late fall. The type of vegetation was not disclosed in the press information released to the media.

“This effort comes after an overwhelming outcry and demand from the public for more answers as to why the state transportation department would execute such an unsightly, massive and ill-informed project without any public input from the tax payers or local officials and how it would affect residents,” said Rep. Spencer. “GDOT has finally given us a timeline that informs the community of when the beautification activities begin,” said Rep. Spencer. “Even though it is after the fact and the majority of the damage has been done, I am thankful they will now be meeting local officials, as they should, to review and receive input on the next phase of project and get a consensus going forward. People are not happy and rightfully so. The beautification phase, however, does not solve the increased noise problems that residents along the interstate now have to deal with. The noise must be addressed.”

“Thanks to Representative Spencer for organizing the recent meeting with GDOT,” said Rep. Jones. “However, the entire process and the reasoning we were given for the clear-cutting of all the beautiful trees on IH95, IH16 and on other state roads in Georgia is troubling to me on its face.  It seems that we are spending taxpayer money for a project of questionable value. Now, we must spend additional taxpayer money to ‘beautify’ these clear-cut areas. If asked, I suspect our taxpayers would vote no on the entire effort. Just because GDOT has the money to spend doesn’t mean they should. All we ask is for GDOT to keep local citizens and elected officials informed before they undertake such a sweeping and, in my opinion, questionable project, and to spend taxpayer money in a prudent manner.”

Meetings will be scheduled with Camden County and the cities of Kingsland, St. Mary’s and Woodbine to discuss beautification projects with local officials. The GDOT landscape architect will work with Camden County to determine the variety of trees to be planted, and ensure that grass and pollinator gardens are planted during the appropriate growing seasons. Proposed planting locations include Exit 1 on I-95 and wide median sections of I-16.

To find out when the meetings are scheduled, review the county and each cities website calendar of events.

Currently the project totals for I-95 and I-16 are as follows:

$4.5 million for Interstate vegetation management contracts. 

$6 million for Hurricane Matthew cleanup contracts. 

Preliminary phase of the landscape/beautification projects: The amount to be determined.  

Jeremy Spencer grew up in rural South Georgia and has served as a healthcare provider, high school science teacher, school administrator, and state education official. Jeremy is currently the market and content manager for All on Georgia-Camden and Glynn Counties. Jeremy’s focus is local news, statewide education issues, and statewide political commentary for the All on Georgia News Network. Jeremy has served as an education policy analyst for local legislators and state education leaders as well as a campaign strategist for local and statewide political campaigns. Jeremy holds degrees in science and education from the University of Georgia, Piedmont College, and Valdosta State University. Jeremy has lived in Camden County for over 17 years.

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