The City of Florence invited community members to “take a walk” Thursday during a celebration for the long-awaited completion of the Rhododendron Drive Project, which improved roadway quality and bike and pedestrian safety, as well as increased water flow.
“It’s been a great two-and-a-half years,” said City Manager Erin Reynolds. “It’s been fun to see these improvements come to life and make Florence able to reflect the true character of our town.”
Florence City Council, Lane County Commissioner Jay Bozievich, city staff, community members and area representatives took a walk or rode bicycles on the new soft-surface shoulder of Rhody Drive and sidewalks near PeaceHealth Peace Harbor.
Florence Police Chief Tom Turner, Commander John Pitcher and Officer Coleton Baker provided traffic control via car and patrol bikes during the one-mile walk from PeaceHealth Peace Harbor Medical Center to the Greentrees Village Event Room, where Greentrees coordinated a reception for the celebration.
Residents of Greentrees were vocal participants in the debate for a multi-use path in the years leading up to the project. Through community involvement, they guided the city into making choices that preserved the native rhododendrons on Rhody Drive and provided adequate protection for pedestrians and cyclists on the new shoulder extension.
Vicki Martin, with the Citizen Committee to Save the Native Rhododendrons, said, “Today, we celebrate a safer walking pathway for all those in Florence who enjoy this scenic drive. Due to our efforts, the path was created in a more aesthetic way, saving hundreds of trees, native rhododendrons and precious animal habitat for our generation and those to come.”
Florence Councilor George Lyddon said, “As a board member of Greentrees, I am sure everyone would agree that the residents are well pleased with the outcome of this project. Greentrees is behind you 100 percent. We value our relationship with the City of Florence and look forward to many years of this symbiotic relationship.”
The Rhody Drive Project, which involved multiple public forums, several iterations of design plans, input from concerned neighbors, the cooperation of Oregon Department of Transportation and engineering services by OBEC Consulting Engineers, has been in process since 2010.
The most recent phase took two-and-a-half years, bringing the entire project to completion.
“This project is just one example of the culture of change we have worked to implement into Florence,” said Florence Mayor Joe Henry. “We had a vision and a plan, and we worked to make it happen. This is what our ‘City in Motion’ motto is all about.”
Next projects for the city include this year’s completion of the Public Works Operations Facility, 2675 Kingwood St., a remodel of Florence City Hall and the upcoming ReVision Florence with ODOT and Urban Renewal Agency.
“We are awake, and we are moving,” said Lyddon. “We are being watched by other cities in Oregon and we are a benchmark for what can be accomplished.”
Local officials will gather again Wednesday, Aug. 16, for the official Florence Coast Guard City Designation at Florence Events Center, 715 Quince St., from 10:30 a.m. to noon.
This event, which is open to the public, will be followed by an open house at U.S. Coast Guard Station Siuslaw River, 4255 Coast Guard Road, from 12:30 to 4 p.m.