U.S. 19 gets some love with new landscaping

A water truck drenches new plantings along a stretch of the U.S. 19 median in Hudson. Phase I of the landscaping work began last year in the Holiday area, and Phase II is underway now north of Port Richey toward the Hernando County line. Several species of palms, including some that reach 30 feet in height, along with new shrubs and ground cover are meant to convey a coastal theme.

It is, after all, the Gulf Coast Highway. It ought to look the part.

Nearly two years after kicking off work between the Pinellas County line and the Holiday area, Pasco County’s Landscape Rehabilitation Project to beautify medians along U.S. 19 has made its way north of State Road 52, and it’s looking mighty nice.

Phase II of the of the project began in June, but until recently there hasn’t been much to see beyond tilling and prepping median soil from Port Richey to north to the Hernando County line. But now stretches of median include neat rows of ornamental plants and palm trees. Watering trucks have been busy ensuring the plants and trees get all the H2O they need to thrive, as other sections of median are being prepped for plantings. The work is being performed by Down to Earth Contractors.

The palms between Embassy Boulevard in Port Richey to Hudson Avenue a few miles north include Gorge and Ribbon species. The Gorge Palm is short and its leaves branch out into a fan, while the Ribbon species is tall and slender, capable of reaching 30 feet in height. North of Hudson Avenue to Hernando, 6-foot-tall Pigmy Palms will be planted, according to Brendan Fitterer, a Pasco County public information officer.

Fitterer said various shrubs and ground cover plantings will complement the newly planted palms. Those species include Beach Sunflower, Blanket Flower, Dwarf Firebush, Pink Muhly Grass, Orange/Yellow Ixora, Little John Bottlebrush, Perennial Peanut and Knock Out Roses.

Fitterer said the idea is to convey a coastal theme that “promotes coastal opportunities and a revitalized U.S. 19 corridor.” It’s all part of The Harbors-West Market plan put together by the county and part of a vision for the future of coastal and inland areas along the west side of Pasco. The vision includes carefully planned commercial and residential growth, the revitalization of existing neighborhoods as well as promoting compact, walkable, mixed-use development in the region. The overall objective of the long-range plan is to “celebrate and enhance historic assets and neighborhood features,” according to an outline.

Residents can be part of that vision and submit ideas by registering at www.pascocountyfl.net/275/The-Harbors-West-Market-Redevelopment. Registered people also receive bulletins and information about the plan as it progresses.

The bulk of the landscaping work on U.S. 19 now involves medians between Maryland Avenue and Viva Via Drive in Hudson. So far, it doesn’t appear to be hindering traffic flow much if at all.

The project ultimately will span 20 miles and cost about $3.5 million. A $1 million grant from the Florida Department of Transportation helped kick off the work last year, and more state funds are expected to help fund completion. New phases to fill in remaining sections of median will begin in 2021, according to Fitterer.