Minnesota has been beautifying stretches of highways near exits to cities in hopes of luring drivers to pull off and explore local restaurants and shops. Uninviting, scruffy and desolate highway roadsides are a problem in many states, but the Minnesota Department of Transportation looks at such spots as the “first impression” a city or town makes to many people who might just be passing through.
According to the Duluth News Tribune:
MnDOT has spent about $2 million on more than 350 cities and suburbs across the state as part of the Community Roadside Landscape Partnership Program, created in the mid-1990s. Cities often supply the volunteer labor and then agree to maintain the landscaping.
MnDOT’s efforts cost about $180,000 a year, with each city receiving about $10,000 to $15,000.
Golden Valley spruced up a bit of Highway 55 with lilac bushes and trees, and Mendota Heights will be tearing out invasive species such as buckthorn in favor of native grasses and flowers along the same highway.
“A lot of cities are seeing landscaping as an economic development tool,” landscape architect Todd Carroll, MnDOT’s statewide landscape partnership program coordinator, told the Tribune. “They make it look like a small town, removing the concrete jungle, and make it scenic with trees.”
Jenn Stanley is a freelance journalist, essayist and independent producer living in Chicago. She has an M.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.