The Twin-City Rotary Club is putting down roots at one end of the community to make Batesburg-Leesville more inviting for international visitors.
Club members have embarked on an ambitious project to give “the triangle” — as it is called by longtime residents — a fresh new look for folks entering the Town limits. These community-minded volunteers are poised to plant evergreens, floral trees, even roses in the three-sided sliver of land at the intersection of U.S. 1 and Russell Street.
The “triangle” serves as the gateway to the Hitachi Rail STS plant, which was recently acquired and renamed after years as Ansaldo STS and Union Switch & Signal.
“The triangle has been an eyesore for our town and an embarrassment to us when we have international visitors to Hitachi,” said Marilyn Crady, a member of the Twin-City Rotary Club and a master gardener. “It is our desire to turn this small oasis into a virtual paradise as best we can and a beautiful welcoming turn into one of our town’s largest industries.”
The wedge of land is actually owned by the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT). The Twin-City Rotary Club has been working for the better part of five years to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s to get the go-ahead for the beautification.
“Rotary is all about service above self, so we really started working on this,” she said. “The plans changed quite a few times before we got them approved by the SCDOT.”
As a relatively new member of the club, Ms. Crady said she “revitalized the project for the club and (has) spent almost two years getting approval from the SCDOT for the Twin-City Rotary to move forward. Within the process, the SCDOT also asked us to include the ‘cut-through,’ which was not a legal road to be included in the project.” The dirt “cut-through” is at the edge of “the triangle” closest to an adjacent building.
Passersby already can see some evidence of progress. A railroad crossing sign and a crossing arm, donated and installed by Batesburg-Leesville Police Chief Wallace Oswald, now stand on the site. Hitachi donated a switch signal to be displayed in the small garden.
The Twin-City Rotary Club plans to plant eight Chinese Fringe-Flower trees, commonly known as Loropetalum (scientific name: Loropetalum chinense), in the “cut-through.”
“They’re going to make a nice backdrop to the other plants that we’re going to put in,” Ms Crady said.
Loropetalum is “an evergreen shrub that generally grows to a height of 10 to 15 feet with a similar to somewhat smaller width,” she said. “However, it is capable of greater height as evidenced by the 100-year-old specimens in Aiken that are 35 feet tall.”
The next plantings envisioned by the Rotarians will be a semi-circle of four Chaste trees, commonly known as vitex trees. These dark-purple to blue trees grow to around 8-10 feet tall and wide, and they will stand behind and on either side of the switch signal and crossing arm.
“These are not the standard nursery plants that we’re putting in, so we can get the maximum impact out of this,” Ms. Crady said. “We’re trying really hard to make our community really nice-looking.”
The final dramatic touch will be 50 apricot-colored rose bushes that will fully outline the triangle, Ms. Crady said. These bushes can be expected to bloom each spring and bring a splash of subtle color throughout the season.
The Twin-City Rotary is encouraging folks all across the Batesburg-Leesville community to get involved in the project.
“What we would like to do is offer the community the chance to become a part of this beautification project for our community,” Ms. Crady said. “What a great way to remember your loved one at Christmas. Twin City Rotary welcomes anyone who would like to donate a plant in honor of or in memory of someone special.”
Donors may contribute $150 to sponsor a Loropetalum tree in honor or in memory of a loved one; $100, for a commemorative Chaste vitex tree; or $50 for a one-gallon rose bush. Checks must be made out to the Twin-City Rotary Club and may be mailed c/o Marilyn Crady, 143 Fulmer Street, Batesburg-Leesville, SC 29006.
“We appreciate anyone who would like to donate to help defray the cost of the soil or pine straw to cover the area, too, and we will be posting a list of donors,” she said.
No doubt, this colorful addition to the overall landscape of our town will be a sight to see not just for international businesspeople coming into town to visit the Hitachi plant but to others passing through between Aiken and Columbia, who might be looking for a reason to stop, dine, shop and yes, sightsee.
Story by Tony Baughman / Published Decmber 19, 2019