Scott Discon is a proud Mandeville resident, so much so that he is happy to serve as commissioner of the city’s Parks and Parkways Commission.
It’s a volunteer position, but Discon, an attorney by trade, spends quite a bit of time helping the city with beautification efforts that make Mandeville a prettier place to live.
Discon and his peers on the Parks and Parkways Commission have their sights set on three projects that aim to pump fresh life into three of the city’s most heavily traveled areas.
Chief among them is a tree-planting project on Florida Street/U.S. 190 from Jackson Avenue to the beginning of East Causeway Approach at City Hall. Plans also are in motion to build a water garden underneath the elevated Causeway Boulevard where it crosses Monroe Street, as well as to create an edible garden on the neutral ground on Marigny Street in old Mandeville.
Each is set to take place in fiscal year 2017, which for Mandeville began Sept. 1. Discon said the Parks and Parkways Commission likely will complete each of three projects in phases, with additions to each coming in subsequent fiscal years.
The Mandeville City Council gave the commission a $500,000 budget this fiscal year, which means Discon and company have the money in hand and are eager to begin. The timing is just about right for the greenway project on Florida Street, which calls for oak trees to be planted along what is a practically treeless corridor.
The oaks would be about 8 feet in height and cost about $300 each — a great investment, Discon said, considering what the smaller trees will become in the not-so-distant future.
Discon said the tree-planting initiative hasn’t been particularly easy, however. When the state widened Florida Street/U.S. 190 several years ago, “rollover” curbs were put into place along stretches of the roadway.
Planting trees behind curbs that don’t necessarily impede cars in case of accidents isn’t allowed on state highways. So when it comes to public property, the city is limited to planting the oaks in green areas located behind traditional street curbs.
Where there are rollover curbs, the city is speaking to business owners about their willingness to have a tree planted on their private property. Discon said there have been some takers, but added there has been some apathy toward the project.
He’d like to see the business community excited about the prospect of a tree-lined avenue rather than the more stark concrete landscape the wide roadway provides now.
“These are nice-size trees,” Discon said. “They won’t be twigs. We’re going to dig the hole and plant the tree. All we’re asking is the property owner water the tree once a week. It's not going to be a lot of work at all.
"We have seven people right now who do want the trees, and we hope to pick up another five or so. We anticipate that once people see the trees, they’ll want one too ... We’d like to make Florida (Street) look a lot better. If you plant the trees, you build community.”
In later phases of the project, Discon said Parks and Parkways would like to plant a 2-foot wide strip of grass on either side of the road to give added green space to the area. It’s all part of a project that’s been in the works for three years, but has been scaled down to be cost effective.
“We think this would have a long-term effect on business,” Discon said. “We don’t have sprinklers or lighting in this project. It’s good spending ... We hope to start planting in January and February.”
The water garden at the intersection of Causeway and Monroe also has been discussed for several years, but looks to be on track for construction this fiscal year. Discon said a lot of brainstorming has gone into this project in particular, which would be symbolic of the water of Lake Pontchartrain and the Causeway that led to Mandeville’s growth when it was built 60 years ago.
“Causeway runs right through the city and kind of splits it into east and west communities,” he said. “We thought ‘Let’s marry the two.’ The garden could use the elevated roadway which already has water drains coming off it. We could catch the water in basins below and make that water part of this garden. We want all native species of plants. It would be a celebration of the lake; a celebration of water.”
Discon said the commission would like to install park benches in the area, as well as landscape around the water garden. He said widening an existing bike path there would also be a good idea to draw attention to the spot.
“It may be the most heavily traveled place in the city,’ Discon said. “We have a roundabout coming in. Let’s make it look nice.”
The third project would involve the planting of citrus trees along the north-south corridor of Marigny Street in old Mandeville. Power lines run above that street, which has required regular "topping." When trees have their highest branches cut off routinely, some eventually begin to weaken and die.
To solve the problem, the commission would like to remove the sick trees from the Marigny neutral ground and replace them with edible fruit trees. A walking path would meander throughout the neutral ground all the way to the lake, and pedestrians could sample a piece of fruit while strolling to and from the lakefront.
Discon said citrus trees would be logical choices for the pathway and fig trees (which are hearty enough to absorb saltwater from the water table) would likely be placed closer to the lake.
“Plus, the fruit trees aren’t very tall, so they wouldn’t’ be a problem with the power lines,” Discon said.
Discon said the Parks and Parkways Commission is excited about these projects finally coming to fruition after several years awaiting funding. The primary goal now, he said, is to involve property owners along Florida Street in the tree-planting plan.
He urged anyone who would like more information on participating or volunteering to contact Mandeville Landscape and Urban Forestry Inspector Catherine Casanova at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (985) 624-3103.
“We’re just trying to educate and get awareness out there,” Discon said.