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Water, Wetlands, and Wildlife

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Roadside Use of Native Plants

Gaining Public Support — Ways to Increase Public Awareness

Bill Johnson, North Carolina Department of Transportation

How might you gain public support for your roadside enhancement programs? Here are some recommendations that have helped in our roadside program here in North Carolina:

  1. Start in a focused manner. Pick a special event or a special program to focus on. Our Wildflower Program started in 1985 with just 12 acres and was followed by the Olympic Festival in 1987 in the Research Triangle area. The Wildflower Program, which we could focus on intensely and the Olympic Festival successes with all kinds of plant materials, jump started our roadside enhancement program.
  2. Whatever you do, be successful. Look at every detail of the plantings you are undertaking. Remember, color is king and large solid splashes will make you successful.
  3. Pinpoint who are the likely support groups for your roadside enhancement program, your State Council of Garden Clubs, local garden clubs, Keep America Beautiful chapters, your state Keep America Beautiful organization, your Commerce Department, travel and tourism organizations, local civic groups, key legislators, local appearance groups, Scenic America chapters, etc. Involve as many groups as you can in your program as you start it up. Here in North Carolina one of our most successful sponsorships is an awards luncheon sponsored by the Garden Club of North Carolina. This is a statewide contest for DOT employees who have planted the best wildflower areas or who have maintained the best program each year.
  4. Crank up your department's public relations' machine. Develop news releases during the blooming periods. Identify flowers and where they are located statewide. Develop a wildflower handbook to identify your roadside plants. Other ideas may include promotional items such as front license tags, t-shirts, seed packets that may be provided for monetary donations to your program. Enlist public support in every way possible.
  5. Develop slide presentations and videos that can be used at speaking engagements for local garden clubs and civic groups. Go out to the grass roots level to garner support for your program.
  6. Develop a packet of information in your central office and be prepared for a flood of phone calls and letters that you will have to respond to about your great work. In summary, involve the public and local support groups early in your program. Start out on a scale that you can manage at a very high level of intensity. One success breeds many more successes in a roadside enhancement program. The resources will be provided to you if you start and develop a successful and popular program.
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Questions and feedback should be directed to Deirdre Remley (deirdre.remley@dot.gov, 202-366-0524).

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