Gateway to downtown gets makeover

From left, Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce director Judy Diogo; Sen. Brian Bushweller, D-Dover; Sen. Bruce Ennis, D-Smyrna; Levy Court Commissioner Allan Angel; former state representative Don Blakey, Levy Court Commissioner Terry Pepper, Smyrna Mayor Joanne Masten and Levy Court president Brooks Banta pose before the groundbreaking. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

From left, Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce director Judy Diogo; Sen. Brian Bushweller, D-Dover; Sen. Bruce Ennis, D-Smyrna; Levy Court Commissioner Allan Angel; former state representative Don Blakey, Levy Court Commissioner Terry Pepper, Smyrna Mayor Joanne Masten and Levy Court president Brooks Banta pose before the groundbreaking. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — Taking a quick break from shoveling mulch Friday morning, Tony Smith described the importance of the project he was working.

“It’s like the entrance to Dover,” he said as other crew members continued to guide wheelbarrows from a dump truck, drop and rake mulch around him.

Kent County administrator Mike Petit DeMange, Levy Court commissioner Terry Pepper and president Brooks Banta toss dirt onto a sweet bay magnolia tree Friday morning during the U.S. 13 Streetscape and Landscape Beautification project groundbreaking ceremony at the corner of U.S. 13 and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Dover. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Kent County administrator Mike Petit DeMange, Levy Court commissioner Terry Pepper and president Brooks Banta toss dirt onto a sweet bay magnolia tree Friday morning during the U.S. 13 Streetscape and Landscape Beautification project groundbreaking ceremony at the corner of U.S. 13 and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Dover. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

“There’s Martin Luther King Boulevard and DuPont Highway coming together here and Legislative Hall is just down the road.

“It can’t be much more of a grand entrance to Dover than that.”

It was the first step in a makeover for the gateway to downtown Dover.

Mr. Smith and his Lewes-based Clean Cut Interlocking Pavers and Custom Inground Fiberglass Pools co-workers had the honor of putting down the mulch, grasses, plants and trees for the U.S. Route 13 Streetscape and Landscape Beautification Project designed to spruce up the main traffic artery through Kent County.

Eventually, organizers plan to have a string of unified landscaping at spots on U.S. 13 from south in Farmington to north in Smyrna.

For now, the Dover location and one in Smyrna near the Simon’s Corner Shopping Center are benefiting from $180,000 in improvements provided by Kent County legislators through their part of the Capital Transportation Fund and seed money from Dover International Speedway and Red Frog Events.

The idea to beautify the highway was hatched more than a decade ago — 2002 to be exact — by Greater Kent Committee members Ed Dulin, Judy Diogo and Cindy Small, and required the cooperation of municipal, county and state legislative entities to make it happen. Sen. Brian Bushweller, D-Dover, was described as a “hero” during Friday’s ceremony for raising support from Kent County senators and representatives.

Levy Court president Brooks Banta said he was proud that Levy Court could sponsor the project. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Levy Court president Brooks Banta said he was proud that Levy Court could sponsor the project. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

“We’re in a very difficult period, but even in tight financial times we need to always be looking to the future, always looking at ways to make our community better …” said Sen. Bushweller, saluting his Legislative Hall colleagues for their contributions.

Said Ms. Diogo of the landscaping that will eventually have a unified theme from north to south and everywhere in-between, “We want visitors and residents traveling on U.S. 13 to know they’ve arrived, they’re here in Kent County.”

Describing highways as “community image builders,” president Brooks Banta of project sponsor Levy Court said nearly 40,000 vehicles pass through the MLK Boulevard-U.S. 13 intersection daily, and it’s crucial to make it a scenic drive.

“Today we make an important and historic step toward the beautification of this important highway corridor,” Mr. Banta said during remarks at a project kickoff ceremony.

Sen. Brian Bushweller, D-Dover, one of the driving forces behind the project, read a list of the other lawmakers who assisted in seeing the idea become a reality. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Sen. Brian Bushweller, D-Dover, one of the driving forces behind the project, read a list of the other lawmakers who assisted in seeing the idea become a reality. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

“My hope is that what we start here today will be replicated up and down this great roadway and it will become a source of community pride throughout Kent County.”

On Nov. 9, Clean Cut Pavers and Pools will begin work on U.S. 13 in Smyrna, working at night for up to 2½ weeks to cover 500 feet of the median with similar plants and trees put into the ground in Dover.

Weather permitting, the project should be completed by Thanksgiving, Mr. Smith said.

While Sen. Bruce Ennis, D-Smyrna, said he and Rep. William J. “Bill” Carson, D-Smyrna, have been involved in many projects in their northern Kent County territory, “This project is large scale and we’re proud to be a part of it.”

Donald Blakey, former state representative, said, “Kent County is our home and we always want it to be beautiful, accommodating, and accessible to everyone who wants to visit it.”

Matthew Spong of Landscape Architectural Services in Dover designed the two beautification sites — approximately 22,000 square feet in Dover and 10,000 in Smyrna. Mr. Spong was proud of the native fescue grass that requires only one mow a year while protecting the environment, along with perennial plants serving as insect pollinators.

“It’s great to be doing something that will be seen by so many people and create a positive image of a key area in the city,” Mr. Spong said.

The initiative now is to bring in U.S. 13-located businesses to assist in the next phase of beautification.

For more information on the project, call the Greater Kent Committee at 734-2513.

Editor’s note: In accordance with the Delaware State News’ disclosure policy, Ed Dulin is president and CEO of Independent Newsmedia Inc. USA, the newspaper’s parent company.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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