Coal used in landscaping on Mulberry Street medians
July 20 – SCRANTON – What a sight when charcoal adorns the median of Mulberry Street.
Scranton Tomorrow, the nonprofit that leads downtown economic development efforts, recently installed coal and brown mulch around the Central Islands at blocks 100, 200, and 300 of Mulberry Street between Mulberry Street Bridge and Wyoming Avenue spice it up.
The organization took over the Central Islands from the State Department of Transportation a few years ago and maintains its landscaping, said Leslie Collins, President / CEO of Scranton Tomorrow.
With the median between multiple lanes of heavy traffic, maintenance with mulching, reclaiming and planting flowers wasn’t exactly easy, she said. Winter also brings challenges when snow is plowed in the median and road salt eats away at the plants.
“Because of the location of the islands and the amount of traffic, it was really a tough job to maintain the islands in the winter,” said Collins.
Steve Ward, who leads Scranton Tomorrow’s Downtown Safe, Clean & Green Ambassador team, came up with the idea of using charcoal as decorative landscaping in the median.
Ward, who previously served as a coordinator in the Penn State Extension Master Gardener Program, said he had never used coal in landscaping before.
“We wanted to renew the islands,” said Ward. “We’ve tried all sorts of ways to make it look beautiful and stay beautiful. We have planted annuals, but it’s just too difficult, an unsafe place for people to work there regularly. We wanted to do something that Has been sustainable, one-and-done for a couple of years and looks good and distinctive. “
Gravel would work fine, but is ubiquitous, he said. Given the city and area’s coal mining history, Ward suggested using coal. It would both fill the bill for resilience and pay homage to the miners of long ago.
“This is my way of saying thank you for all of your hard work,” said Ward.
The story goes on
He visited Agel Coal Co. in Scranton to check the sizes of cracked anthracite and chose chestnut, a medium, chunky size, for medium landscaping.
The landscaping took place in June.
Coal might be viewed by some as an unusual choice for landscaping. “It’s also very durable and beautiful. Even at night, every bit of light it takes in and it sparkles,” said Ward.
One of the medians also has a strip of perennials – black-eyed susans and purple coneflowers – planted in the coal bed for a splash of bright colors.
“It will take a couple of years for them to become established,” said Ward. “They do really well in dry, hot environments, so they’ll be beautiful next year.”
Some motorists and pedestrians who noticed the coal have given positive reviews, he said.
“People have commented that it looks good,” Ward said, adding that some passers-by may not even know it was coal.
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