By Anne McKay Garris
In the 1940's, Clearwater's Memorial Causeway was two-lanes with a wide sidewalk down the center and relatively scarce of traffic. The landscaping was extensive and colorful. The number of old postcards which feature Clearwater's Causeway is indicative of it as the focal point of the community. By the 1970's, the Causeway had extended to four lanes with a smaller median in the middle and sidewalks down the sides. The landscaping had become so sadly neglected that the Clearwater Beach Association created a Causeway Beautification Fund with private donations. The plan was for the Beach Association to contract with the city to do the landscaping. This was forestalled by the city's moving forward with better landscaping.
This week, the community watched in astonishment as the unique and reasonably attractive landscaping disappeared from the causeway. In light of the city's fiscal condition, there was mumbling about what was going to be there and how much it would cost.
The cost, it turns out, is approximately $170,000. It is funded by the State Department of Transportation. According to a city spokesman, the city is required to pick from the State's list of approved plants. These are neither xerioscape (which requires a minimum of watering), nor native Florida plants, but it is "resort landscaping," which consists of non-native exotics. They are, however, "non-invasive exotics," Bird of Paradise, small palms and other plants such as you already see on the new bridge.
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