NEW BETHLEHEM – In an effort to “green up” the streets of New Bethlehem and to present a more welcoming feel for those coming into town, New Bethlehem Mayor Tim Murray said last week he is raising money to install flower planters along Broad Street.

Murray brought up the project at last week’s meeting of the Redbank Valley Chamber of Commerce, asking if the chamber would consider donating to the cause.

“I do think it would make town look a lot better,” he told chamber members, adding that the project will cost about $5,000 to install 10 flower planters.

After the meeting, Murray said that studies have shown that trees, planters and other green spaces slow traffic, increase business by as much as 20 percent, help with storm drainage issues, reduce carbon emission, help prevent flooding and increase property values.

“Too many empty buildings and a lack of color creates no reason for someone to slow down and stay awhile,” Murray said.

He said he looked into grants for tree planting, but due to the infrastructure running beneath the sidewalks along Broad Street, it was determined it would be extremely costly to add trees along the main thoroughfare.

“As I was driving through a town in West Virginia about the size of our town, I noticed the large planters along the street,” the mayor said. “They were planted with seasonal blooms, had some small tables in chairs in front of some of the businesses, and had people milling about on the street. It gave the town a very comforting feel and did cause me to slow down and see what was along the main street.”

Murray said he reached out to a company that supplies municipal planters that have a water collection system built in that reduces watering to every two to three weeks if needed. He said they are a terra cotta color, measure 36-inches high with a 41-inch diameter, and have a water capacity of 40 gallons. They also have an overflow system that prevents the need for drilling holes. He said he viewed the same planters at Slippery Rock University and found them to be “very attractive and of good quality.”

The cost is about $500 per planter, Murray said, and that doesn’t include the soil or plantings.

In addition to presenting the idea to chamber members, Murray said he has shared the idea with New Bethlehem Borough Council, and the newly formed Bulldog Alliance group that is part of the Redbank Valley School District.

He suggested that students in the horticulture classes at Redbank Valley High School could raise the flowers in the high school greenhouse. Local businesses could be asked to adopt a planter, and other garden and civic clubs could be involved for seasonal and coordinated plantings.

“Any way we can slow traffic and get them to notice the great businesses we have along main street can only be a plus to the New Bethlehem downtown,” Murray said.

To help with the cause, the Redbank Valley Watershed has offered $2,600 toward the planters, and Murray said he has some other possible commitments from area organizations.

Anyone interested in purchasing a planter, sponsoring a planter in memory or a loved one, being a business sponsor, or to donate money toward the cause can contact Murray at (814) 275-3669 or stop by the Subway in New Bethlehem.

Other Business

• The chamber announced that the annual Christmas Parade will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2 along Broad Street. Area groups, businesses, churches and other groups are invited to take part. A registration form can be found on the chamber’s website at Snack with Santa will follow the parade at the New Bethlehem Fire Hall.

• Chamber president Gordon Barrows said that he hopes to have a junior chamber member in place early next year. He said there is interest from a student at Redbank Valley High School to serve as a junior member.

• Barrows also said that the new weighing equipment is in place for the upcoming Big Buck Contest, with weighing to take place at the New Bethlehem Fire Hall. Ticket sales for the annual contest are also underway, with tickets available at the chamber office and other local businesses, or from area firefighters.

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