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Archives for July 15, 2016

Long Time In The Making, Meridian Plaza Celebrated

An Official Debut

Yankton Mayor Charlie Gross uses a ceremonial scissors to cut the ribbon and officially open the Meridian Plaza in downtown Yankton Thursday. . To see video from Thursday’s ceremony, visit

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Posted: Thursday, July 14, 2016 10:32 pm

Updated: 10:37 pm, Thu Jul 14, 2016.

Long Time In The Making, Meridian Plaza Celebrated

By Rob Nielsen


After years of planning and construction, the Meridian Bridge Plaza was ceremoniously opened to the public on Thursday.

City officials and a small crowd gathered at the plaza for an official ribbon cutting for the features at the north end of the Meridian Bridge.

Yankton Parks Recreation Director Todd Larson told the Press Dakotan that plans for a plaza at the Yankton entrance to the walking bridge go back to 2007 and a master revitalization plan by Omaha planning consultant Marty Shukert of RDG Planning Design.

“When the bridge was turned into a pedestrian bridge, there was discussion about what to do with Walnut, as it wasn’t functional anymore as far as getting onto a bridge to cross the river,” Larson said. “Going back to 2007’s unveiling of Marty Shukert’s downtown/Second St. plan, it showed a plaza area at the north end of the bridge. … There had always been some interest in having a plaza at the north end of the bridge and getting traffic slowed down on Second St. with some medians and corner bump-outs for safer pedestrian crossings. They had met and talked with the public, and it just carried through up until the time the bridge was rehabbed.”

Yankton Mayor Charlie Gross praised past City Commissions for getting the ball rolling on the project.

“The commission at the time set aside money to do this,” Gross said. “We’ve carried it over, carried it over and carried it over. It took us a long time to get to this point. I think kudos to the commission back in ’07-’08 that had the foresight to set the money aside so that we could do this.”

After the bridge was turned from vehicle to pedestrian traffic, the present-day Meridian Plaza area consisted of two paths to the bridge decks and green space. City officials and representatives from RDG took time to see how the new walking trails would be received and what kinds of features the public may want before commencing construction in November 2014. The plaza plans included a large fountain, seating options, splash pad, artwork and a few playable musical instruments.

The first phase of the project ($225,000) included the fountain, shaded seating and splash pad. The second phase ($125,000) included artwork, landscaping, musical instruments, pathways to the USS Scorpion Memorial and benches.

Gross said he’s happy with the final product of the first two phases.

“This is great,” he said. “I was in Salina, Kansas, and they’ve got a couple of parks with a splash pad like this and they’re used. Driving through town, you see people playing in the splash pads. I had someone suggest to me that we should do a couple more of these, and I’m going, ‘That would work.’ This is great and I think it turned out very well. … It’s a great addition to the city.”

Larson said a lot of positive feedback has been received since the majority of the work was finished last fall.

“It’s been about a year that the plaza has been open,” he said. “We’ve had good feedback about the fountain and the spray jets and the big-city feel of the plaza in a small community like Yankton.”

He added this may not be the end of the plaza’s evolution.

“On the west side of the bridge — the old Stern Oil property — the tanks have been removed and it’s been turned into green space,” he said. “The plan (in 2007) showed commercial and residential buildings to the west of the bridge. … With the plaza, what they’d always talked about was, ‘Get the bridge open. Let people use it for a while. See what kind of usage could be there and what ideas are brought forward.’ That’s kind of the same situation with what we would call phase three.”

This summer, the green space is being utilized for weekly “Music at the Meridian” concerts, and this may offer a possible glimpse of what the third phase may look like.

“There’s always talk about a small performance stage for (small concerts),” Larson said. “Phase three is still open. We’re in the same holding pattern that we were prior to the plaza design. Let’s give it some time, see what people start to use it for and see what other ideas people bring from other communities that they’ve seen.”


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Thursday, July 14, 2016 10:32 pm.

Updated: 10:37 pm.

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Urban design analysis for downtown Laguna Beach will be revealed

A city-hired planning firm will present its analysis regarding urban design in downtown Laguna Beach during Wednesday’s Planning Commission meeting.

MIG will discuss a variety of topics such as building height, landscaping, crosswalks and overall aesthetics as the city, which hired the firm two years ago to help update Laguna’s downtown specific plan, identifies priorities for the area’s future related to planning and development.

“There are several intersections where the pedestrian environment needs improvement,” MIG said in a memo available on the city’s website at

Possible changes include adding flashing lights at crosswalks or scrambles, where all cars stop, allowing pedestrians from all corners to cross at the same time.

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In the memo, MIG depicted, in schematic designs, possible redevelopment of two properties on opposite sides of Broadway at the intersection with South Coast Highway.

Each parcel currently has a gas station, which MIG said is the not the “optimal” use for either site. Instead, MIG said two, two-story commercial buildings comprised of restaurants and public plazas on the ground floors could replace the gas stations.

MIG did not indicate whether the firm or the city had contacted either property owner about these ideas, according to the memo.

Additional meetings will occur during the summer and fall to review other key topics including, but not limited to parking and land use.

Wednesday’s meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in City Council chambers at 505 Forest Ave, and is open to the public.

Bryce Alderton,

Twitter: @AldertonBryce

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Landscape renovation to cut RSM church’s water use by 500000 gallons annually

One Rancho Santa Margarita church, with help from its members and a few companies, is facing the drought head on.

In an effort to conserve, Community Lutheran Church plans to save an estimated 500,000 gallons of water per year with new landscaping and water use technology. Both were unveiled in front of a small crowd last week.

With work completed on the CLC Landscape Renovation Project, which broke ground in February, onlookers gazed at new native plants and trees surrounded by wood chips and gravel paths that replaced grass.

“There’s beauty, certainly,” CLC pastor Marty Jacobson said. “From the plants to the people involved, everyone came together for a common purpose with their creativity and passion for the environment.”

Before the project, the church was using an estimated 1 million to 1.2 million gallons in outdoor water use per year. The church is projected to use no more than 700,000 gallons per year with the new landscaping.

The project took roughly four months to complete and cost just under $70,000, according to figures provided by Jacobson.

Of that, $11,203 came from the church’s building fund and budget, $16,003 was donated in the form of irrigation equipment and plants and $16,532 was raised in donations.

Alex Nathanson, corporate marketing brand manager for Azusa-based Rain Bird Corp., said his company provided consulting and donated materials and $9,000 for labor.

The final $16,544 was provided in the form of a rebate from the Santa Margarita Water District.

The project was founded on the heels of a free survey of the church grounds conducted in September by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which works directly with the SMWD.

That survey revealed broken sprinkler heads, leaks, high water pressure and generally poor sprinkler coverage, which led to patchy areas of dry grass.

In addition, the survey showed an outdated control system. A lack of weather-sensing or rain shutoff devices also contributed to the system’s inefficiency.

Jacobson and the church reached out to SMWD for help.

“We are in a drought, but the assumption is that grass and plants have to die, and that’s not the case,” said Nathan Adams, SMWD water efficiency manager. “There are options out there, and we have landscape programs in place.”

SMWD teamed up with Rain Bird, which volunteered time and products, including driplines – as opposed to sprinklers – headers and pressure regulators, along with a new central control system and a wireless rain sensor.

The new technology allows the church to control the water usage via smartphone.

Peter Mowery, design director with C2 Collaborative Landscape Design, designed the landscape plan, while Mountain States Wholesale Nursery and Apollo Wood Products added donations and discounts for the native plants. A-G Sod Farms helped provide new water-efficient sod for a turf area near the church patio. Advanced Patio Landscape provided the project labor.

“This really was a community effort,” Nathanson said. “These are all technologies that are available to the public.”

Adams and Rancho Santa Margarita Mayor Tony Beall hope the church can be used as an example of how to save water and maintain an attractive landscape.

“This church has provided decades of great care to its members and to our kids,” Beall said. “This is a model for other churches, businesses and residents about how beautiful water conservation can be.”

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Nurture biodiversity with native plants in home landscape

If you enjoy gardening, watching birds, or sharing your world with wildlife, you are probably already aware of the extreme interdependence of the natural world. You may not be as aware of the rapidly shrinking ability of our continent to support biodiversity. This is one of the main themes of a highly influential work by Douglas W. Tallamy, “Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants” (Expanded and updated, 2009, Timber Press). The good news is, it is not only possible but vital for anyone who has a yard or even a space to nurture a container garden to contribute to saving the species we love and depend on.

The particular aspect of interdependence explored in this book is the use of native plants for food by insects and other herbivores. It also develops the complementary idea that nonnative plants can NOT sustain insect populations which many other creatures (especially birds) require to nurture their young. Tallamy presents a thorough explanation of the effects of habitat fragmentation and landscaping choices on biodiversity, and why we should care.

As he says, “We humans have co-opted such a large percentage of natural areas, that, in far too much of the country, there are no undisturbed habitats left…What’s more, plants from other continents have now invaded the tiny remnants of the great ecosystems that once sustained our biodiversity.” (Coral ardisia, Chinese tallow, nandina, the list of invaders is growing longer and longer…)

The effect of nonnatives on wildlife food sources is actually obvious if you take a look at many of the ornamentals all too common in suburban gardens. How many leaves on a native azalea or wild cherry have been nibbled, compared to a Chinese privet or indica (Japanese) azalea? This may be a good thing to someone only interested in plants as decoration, or who feels compelled to break out the sprayer at the least sign of “pests.” But what does a bluebird (or cardinal, or…) do for protein to feed its young if there are no insects around? Even if the aliens can offer shelter or food at some stages, this minor benefit is not enough. The Tallamy book provides some sobering statistics, and the prediction that “When extinction adjusts the number of species to the land area that remains … (something that will happen within most of our lifetimes), we will have lost 95 percent of the species that greeted the Pilgrims.”

There is also discussion about the perils of imported plants, with widespread effects already seen in agriculture (the soybean aphid, citrus greening) and forestry (chestnut blight, beech scale) among other things. To say nothing of the unsightly and almost wildlife-free monocultures created when imports become invasive. Can you be assured that the fancy new plant from Asia found at your local big box store won’t be the next kudzu?

But there is hope. We can help by the choices we make now in our landscapes (and indeed, good choices are both vital and urgent).  Tallamy discusses practical aspects of “making it happen.” These include leading by example, that natural needn’t mean messy or costly, starting small, gardening in three dimensions, perfect mulch, plant choice, and fighting invasive species. Much of this book is dedicated to making good choices, describing woody native plants and types of “bird food” (fascinating creepy-crawly pics!).

A lot of the plants are applicable to Florida. However, in making good choices for your area, many reference sources are available. These include Native Plant Landscaping for Florida Wildlife (C. N. Huegel), Native Florida Plants (R.G. Haehle and J. Brookwell), and Best Native Plants for Southern Gardens (G. Nelson). The Internet and your local extension office are also rich sources. The Institute for Food and Agricultural Science (IFAS) plant selector can be used to identify useful native plants by type and planting situation (

A final note: Some researchers are not as convinced about the lack of insect use of at least some imported ornamentals, though this does not wholly refute the main theme of Tallamy’s work. Also, there is some evidence that just because a plant is technically one of the native species, it may be a cultivar (cultivated variety) that has been overbred for size, color, or form in such a manner that the relevant herbivores no longer recognize it as a food source. In general, go as native as possible!

Becky Lyons is a Master Gardener volunteer with UF/IFAS Leon County Extension. For gardening questions, email us at

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A Southern Kitchen Garden

Guests enjoying cocktail hour at the sixteen-room Greyfield Inn on Georgia’s Cumberland Island often like to walk with their beverages to the vegetable gardens about a hundred yards away. There they can get a preview of what will be on Whitney Otawka’s nightly three-course menu, which is based entirely around the day’s haul.

“I’m completely spoiled by all this and don’t know how I’ll ever go back to the real world,” says the chef. She talks excitedly of the eight varieties of tomato that ripen in late spring, the sweet baby Zephyr squashes no bigger than her pinkie, and all the exotica that the gardeners Ryan Graycheck and Maya Velasco grow for her. Two examples from this year’s crop: Mexican sour gherkin cucumbers the size of marbles, and ice lettuce—a lemony-tasting succulent that appears to be studded with tiny crystals.

The garden only seems effortless. The truth is anything but. If visitors want to see how Graycheck and Velasco manage to wrest such gorgeous produce from the island’s poor, sandy soil, they should stop by early the next day to witness the effort that goes into tending this acre of land. The young couple, who met while working at Serenbe Farms outside of Atlanta, uses what Graycheck calls “very intensive” efforts to improve the soil. They gather live-oak leaves and pine straw for mulch and enlist an army of worms to vermicompost all the food waste and trimmings from the inn. Every summer during slow season they plant sorghum, buckwheat, and cowpeas for cover crop.

True to the hotel’s welcoming spirit, Graycheck is happy to share the landscaping lessons he’s learned on this secluded barrier island. “We get a lot of guests who live in the area and who have problems trying to garden,” he says. “There’s a lot of info out there but very little that’s tailored to coastal gardening.”

Explore More of the South’s Most Stunning Outdoor Spaces:

The Secret Garden
The Literary Garden
The Public Garden
The Mountain Garden

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San Mateo Invites Residents to Tour City’s New ‘Sustainable Grounds’ at City Hall

By Rebecca Zito, City of San Mateo:

San Mateo City Hall is situated in the center of town and has an understated presence. Its new landscaping and decorative wall creates a welcoming entry to an approachable facility that fully complements its location within the community.

On Monday, July 18th the City of San Mateo will formally recognize the completion of the new City Hall Landscaping Project. The new landscaping creates a serene environment and the recently constructed entry feature identifies the building as a civic facility in the neighborhood. The ceremony takes place at 6:15 pm outside of City Hall at 20th Avenue and O’Farrell Street. Mayor Joe Goethals and San Mateo City Manager, Larry Patterson will welcome the community, acknowledge city staff that led and contributed to the project and recognize the benefits it brings to the community and the environment. The event includes a tour of the new sustainable grounds.

“It’s a tremendous improvement from what used to be here,” stated Larry Patterson, San Mateo City Manager. “The wall facing 20th Avenue lets visitors know they’ve arrived at City Hall, and the new landscaping is a complete transformation of the grounds. City staff designed and installed the landscaping and city staff also designed the wall. I’m proud of the attention and ingenuity given to the project. They’ve done a remarkable job.”

The idea to replace the landscaping at city hall originated with Councilmember Rick Bonilla during a regularly scheduled Council meeting. He suggested that “the city lead by example, tear out the lawn and install a drought tolerant garden.” From there the idea blossomed.

The landscaping features an environmentally sound collection of Mediterranean and California native plants. Special attention was given to the selection of each plant, regarding their ecological functions and their architectural design. “The plantings were selected to thrive together,” says Elga Perez-Rubio, Senior Parks and Landscape Maintenance Worker. Gardens and landscapes are expected to be resource efficient and use reduced amounts of water, fertilizer, pesticides, labor and energy. “All of these elements were taken into consideration, and the landscaping is having less of an impact on the environment,” Perez-Rubio stated.

The new landscaping is a serene habitat and is creating an ecological system that is inviting to a variety of wildlife such as bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, sparrows, lady bugs, and earthworms. The selection of landscaping was made with this in mind. Everything from the colors of the plants to their scent and flower production attracts and retains them.

“Think of the new landscaping as a lab,” says Parks and Recreation Director, Sheila Canzian. “Many of these plants are easy to incorporate into home gardens and the community is welcome to visit the grounds to learn about the varieties planted.”

In total 1,500 plants were placed throughout the grounds of city hall ranging from non-fruit bearing olive trees, coastal Redwoods, and Maples. Lavender, rosemary, carpet roses and an assortment of salvia, sage, star jasmine and California poppies provide an array of color ranging from white to yellow, orange, blue and purple. Hydrangeas and leaf foliage in shade zones were added for interest.

The majority of the plants require moderate amounts of water to thrive, and an upgraded irrigation system helps to meet State and local water efficiency goals and mandates. A drip tubing irrigation system called Netafim, developed in Israel, was installed to apply water at the root zone where it is most needed; smart controllers adjust the irrigation amounts, and mulch throughout the grounds retains soil moisture in the roots. The three components of the irrigation system successfully conserve water and manage its usage.

The wall feature was designed by Public Works staff with the intent that the wall would “grow” out of the landscape and flow around the building to become a soft transition from the natural landscape to the hard form of the building. The wall is capped with a natural flagstone selected to blend the elements together. It provides an appealing transition from the building to the landscape with its subtle curves and complementary colors. The wall on the east side gives a predominant place for the friendship olive tree from Toyonaka, the Sister City of San Mateo. Signage on the walls is an updated version of the city’s sign designs and is extremely legible with the contrast between the deep red tone of the walls and the stainless steel letters.

City staff designed the wall, landscaping and irrigation components of the project. The ability to complete the project using internal resources saved money, and the total project cost was $167,000.

The new landscaping and entry feature create a stronger sense of place and enhances City Hall’s presence in the neighborhood. “The grounds are beautiful, and City Hall is such an inviting place to visit,” says Mayor Goethals. “I encourage community members to visit City Hall and wander the grounds. It’s peaceful and relaxing, and this project represents one small fraction of all San Mateo is doing to create a more sustainable environment.”

The regularly scheduled City Council meeting will follow the ceremony starting at 7:00 pm. Council will present a proclamation to recognize July as Parks and Recreation Month and will acknowledge Parks employees that worked on this project. For more information about upcoming Council meetings, please visit

(Image via Shutterstock)

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