GASTONIA — A run-of-the-mill concrete median in downtown Gastonia has been turning heads after getting a flashy makeover.
The visual buzz stems in part from the bright yellow coat of paint that has been applied to the low-lying barrier, which separates a short portion of the east and westbound lanes on U.S. 74. But it’s also based on the oversized black honeybees that appear to be crawling and lighting on the surface.
The beautification project was carried out by the city and the entity known as Keep Gastonia Beautiful, in honor of Gastonia’s qualification as a ‘Bee City.’ The city recently became the 74th affiliate of the nationwide Bee City USA initiative.
“The general idea of being a Bee City is that we recognize the importance of the insects and promote pollinator gardens throughout the community,” said Gastonia Community Services Director Vincent Wong. “And we educate citizens on what they can also do to promote pollinator habitats.”
Wong said the city’s traffic operations workers carried out the painting and stenciling job themselves.
As a Bee City, Gastonia will be required to hold an annual celebration each June to promote pollinator habitat plantings, as well as to distribute information about bees and the important role they plan in the environment. The city will also be establishing landscape plans and reviewing its pesticide management policies and practices as they relate to pollinator conservation.
A Bee City Committee has additionally been established with Keep Gastonia Beautiful, and similar beautification projects could soon be on the way. The city is now setting up a public painting committee that will allow community groups to paint similar things on greenways, parks, crosswalks and the like, Wong said.
The Bee City initiative represents an effort to fight the epidemic known as ‘Colony Collapse.’ High numbers of the national bee population have disappeared in the last 10 to 15 years and nearly a third of all bee colonies in the United States have perished, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency. The estimated monetary loss to the United States economy from the depopulation of bees is estimated to be $30 billion a year, officials say.
Other beautification projects in downtown Gastonia have previously put a spotlight on the importance of bees. In the spring of 2017, Hive Design owner Merryman Cassels used the exterior wall of her Main Avenue business in that way.
Cassels hired renowned artist Matt Willey to paint a giant beehive on her building’s façade at 127. W. Main Ave., and the mural has continued to be an artistic focal point there.