Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Group hopes flower plan blossoms

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An idea to add hanging flower baskets to some downtown Frederick light poles is taking full bloom.

The effort is a collaboration between the Taskers Chance, Green-walled and Frederick garden clubs, the Downtown Frederick Partnership, the Tourism Council of Frederick County and Neighborhood Advisory Council 11.

Alderman Marcia A. Hall (D), who also serves as president of the Taskers Chance Garden Club, said the idea is based on two successful programs in Annapolis and Baltimore City near Camden Yards, the home of the Baltimore Orioles.

For the last few months, representatives from each group have met to discuss bringing the same idea to Frederick.

‘‘We have two communities to use as models,” Hall said. ‘‘There, people like it and we feel we can be successful in Frederick too, but we want to try the pilot program first.”

The pilot program would add 30 baskets installed at 11 feet high on several city light poles this spring.

Hall said that while the locations are up for discussion, they could include the intersection of Market and Patrick streets and near City Hall on North Court Street.

If successful, another 30 baskets would be installed by spring 2009.

The cost for the brackets and hanging baskets with flowers is $15,000, Hall said, with the majority of money raised through the three participating garden clubs.

Another $535 was donated by the residents in Neighborhood Advisory Council 11.

The amount is more than half of the council’s annual allocation from the city for projects.

Council member Truby LaGarde of East Third Street said the neighborhood group has maintained plantings in the area for years, and leaped at the opportunity to add more flowers downtown.

‘‘This is simply an upgrade in the beautification of downtown Frederick,” LaGarde said. ‘‘A number of us [in the council] have seen this in small cities ... and thought this can improve our streetscapes and the quality of life here.”

Marylou Musser, a 28-year resident of downtown, said she has seen similar efforts in Canada and Newport, R.I., and is anxious to see petunias and ornamental sweet potato vines lining Frederick’s streets.

‘‘This is not meant to distract people, but to enhance their visit downtown,” said Musser, who is also vice president of the Taskers Chance Garden Club. ‘‘This can bring charm to the area and smiles to peoples’ faces.”

Kara Norman, executive director for the Downtown Frederick Partnership, said for years residents, visitors and business owners have inquired about flower baskets, but maintenance was always the issue.

As part of the pilot program, the city’s Department of Public Works will hang the brackets on light poles, but a contractor will be responsible for watering and maintaining the baskets.

The group can use gray, or recycled, water for the effort, Hall said.

Norman said that hanging baskets in other cities have led to street-level flowers by businesses and homeowners.

‘‘There is nothing like flowers to help brighten the day,” she said.

‘‘...Once the baskets go up, everyone wants them and I’m hopeful that will be the experience in Frederick.”

On Feb. 14, Norman will represent the group at a hearing before the city’s Historical Preservation Commission, as the project will be based in the city’s historic district.

Hall said at a workshop on Jan. 24, commission members voiced some initial concerns, including clutter on poles with existing signs, but ‘‘nothing insurmountable” that could delay the pilot effort.

Downtown flower baskets

* Project proposed by three garden clubs, Tourism Council, Downtown Frederick Partnership, and Neighborhood Advisory Council 11

* 30 baskets by spring 2008; another 30 by spring 2009

* Cost: $15,000

* Money donated by garden clubs and NAC 11

* Possible locations: Intersections of Market and Patrick streets; near City Hall; East Street near MARC station