Beautification projects planned on HS highway ramps

Don Norfleet/FULTON SUN photo: Denise Oxley, right, chairman of the 54 Ramp Beautification Committee, and Pamela Murray, president of the Holts Summit Community Betterment Association, stand at the Southeast Center Street exit ramp in Holts Summit that will be the first of six U.S. 54 exit ramps the organizations will beautify this spring by planting trees and shrubs near the center of the ramp triangle.

Don Norfleet/FULTON SUN photo: Denise Oxley, right, chairman of the 54 Ramp Beautification Committee, and Pamela Murray, president of the Holts Summit Community Betterment Association, stand at the Southeast Center Street exit ramp in Holts Summit that will be the first of six U.S. 54 exit ramps the organizations will beautify this spring by planting trees and shrubs near the center of the ramp triangle.

Denise Oxley of Holts Summit had filled her yard with decorative plants and was looking around for a challenge when it hit her.

“Why not beautify one of the off-ramps on Route 54 through Holts Summit?” she asked.

Next month Oxley plans to start beautification projects on six U.S. 54 exit and entrance ramps in Holts Summit.

She began checking into the beautification project that eventually led to involvement with the Missouri Department of Transportation, the Holts Summit Board of Aldermen, and the Holts Summit Community Betterment Association.

Oxley learned that the Missouri Department of Transportation has a Growing Together program designed specifically for exit ramp beautification on highways through cities.

“Many large cities have ramp beautification projects. I thought it would be good for Holts Summit to do this as well. We have a lot to gain economically. There is substantial traffic to and from the Lake of the Ozarks along Highway 54 through Holts Summit during the summer. Motorists need to stop for food, gasoline, ATM services, and other supplies along the way. A pleasing exit is more likely to tempt them to turn off at Holts Summit rather than at another location,” Oxley said.

As a first step, she organized the 54 Ramp Beautification Committee.

At first she set a goal of completing a few ramps every year. But after teaming up with the city of Holts Summit and the Holts Summit Community Betterment Association, the movement began to take off rapidly.

Oxley and Pamela Murray, president of the Holts Summit Community Betterment Association, learned a lot about rules and regulations required by the Missouri Department of Transportation and about contracts that are necessary to do anything on state highway property.

With the help of Ameren Missouri horticulturists, she developed a list of plants that will be attractive throughout the year. They also needed to be hearty enough to withstand Missouri’s frigid winters and scorching summers.

Oxley began looking for sponsors and was amazed at how eager local businesses and others were to participate in the project.

She developed an ambitious plan that requires an estimated $1,600 worth of plantings for each ramp.

Oxley created a plan to concentrate the plantings in one area in each of the triangles that are available at each ramp. “That way it will be easy to mow around the entire area. The Missouri Department of Transportation likes that feature most of all,” Oxley said.

Oxley plans a mixture of evergreen plants that hold their color throughout the year and deciduous trees and shrubs that lose their leaves during the winter.

In one large cluster, Oxley plans to plant 30-foot white pine trees surrounded by 24-foot Purpleleaf Plum trees. The trees will be surrounded by Sea Green Juniper evergreen shrubs with clumps of Maiden Grass interspersed. At each end of the triangle cluster of plants, Golden Spiriea will be planted. Red Wing Dogwood trees and flowering Rose of Sharon shrubs also will be used in some of the plantings. A total of 80 plants will be used at each ramp.

Members of the Callaway County Master Gardeners Club assisted with selecting plants. Some of them also will help with plantings.

“Everybody has been so cooperative. Even Lowe’s is giving us a price break on the plants,” Oxley said.

Rather than waiting until fall to do the plantings, Oxley wants to complete all of the plantings this spring. She has rounded up a truck and a water tank that she can use to haul water to each of the planting areas during the hot summer months. New plants often wither and die during the summer without a boost from watering until plant roots grow deep enough.

Oxley’s eagerness to perform community service has rubbed off on her brother Landon. After Holts Summit Alderman Paul Buckley decided not to file for re-election in the Second Ward and no one filed for the office, Oxley’s brother stepped forward and has volunteered to conduct a write-in campaign for the public service position.

The state highway agency permits special Growing Together signs to be erected at each ramp project. The names of from one to three sponsors for the beautification project can be listed under each standard Growing Together sign.

Oxley teamed up with Murray to help drive the project to completion.

They thought it would take a few years to get going but sponsors rolled in rapidly — along with the money needed for each project.

So far about $10,000 has been raised to finance beautification of six of the ramps in Holts Summit.

The city of Holts Summit has agreed to use its equipment to dig holes for plantings.

The first project will start next month at the southeast Center Street exit ramp.

The ramps to be completed and the sponsors for each are:

• Southeast Center Street exit ramp — Mid America Bank.

• Southeast Route OO/AA exit ramp — Central Bank.

• Northwest Route OO/AA exit ramp — Holts Summit Community Betterment Association.

• Southwest Route OO/AA entrance ramp — American Family Insurance Dee Dee Stratman Agency.

• Southwest Center Street entrance ramp — Ameren Missouri, Moser’s Supermarket, and multiple small donors.

• Northwest Center Street exit ramp — Brenda Hiatte Leydens, Shelton Brothers Construction Co., and Kenny Shelton Construction Co.

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