HAVERHILL - The 33 black metal planter boxes the city installed along Washington and Wingate streets last year made it through a mild winter undamaged by snow plows.
But many people in the city were left wondering when the boxes containing potting soil would be used for something other than as receptacles for trash such as cigarette butts and empty potato chip bags.
Things are looking up for this western end of Haverhill’s downtown.
The city planted flowering cherry trees and Japanese tree lilacs in the boxes in May and now a number of businesses are doing their part by planting flowers and other greenery, including Keon’s 105 Bistro, The Tap Restaurant and George’s Restaurant.
Mayor James Fiorentini said the boxes were installed last year as part of a state-led streetscaping project that was funded with 80 percent federal and 20 percent state funds. Funds from the federal earmark also paid for the trees and for a local florist to water them.
“We actually debated whether to put trees in the planter boxes or just flowers,” Fiorentini said. “We knew that Providence (Rhode Island) used the same planter boxes and that they planted trees in them, so we called down there. They said it worked, even though at first they didn’t think their trees would survive.”
Fiorentini said the key to maintaining the planter boxes is to ensure they are watered and cared for.
The streetscaping project that was undertaken last year included replacing narrow strips of broken bricks along downtown sidewalks with wider brick accents, replacing broken curbing, and adding new bumpouts in front of several restaurants, including George’s and Keo
n’s on Washington Street and the Peddler’s Daughter
on Wingate Street that allow for more outside dining. Additional enhancements were made in the area of the new parking garage on Granite Street, which is operated by the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority.
But no sooner had the rectangular metal planter boxes been installed along downtown streets than pedestrians began using many of them as trash receptacles. But not all of them.
In the weeks leading up to the holiday season, the Tap Restaurant and Brewpub enhanced the looks of the two boxes that were placed out front with a few decorated Christmas trees that lit up at night. It was the kind of image that gave shoppers, diners and others an idea as to how the boxes might look this year.
Sharon Cohen, general manager of the Tap, said she wanted to enhance the looks of the two planter boxes, which she also decorated with balsam branches, birch branches and winter berries.
Public Works Director Michael Stankovich said workers who drive the sidewalk plows will be advised to use caution when passing by the planter boxes.
He said the planters were positioned so as not to interfere with the sidewalk plows, pedestrians and those in wheelchairs who traverse the sidewalks in the downtown area.
Fiorentini said the planter boxes were installed in an effort to enhance the downtown area and give it a better appearance for customers of various businesses, including resta
urants that offer outdoor dining.