TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. -- Up until the early 1960s, a palm tree-lined median ran the entire length of Butler Avenue, Tybee Island's main thoroughfare. The median was designed as an extension of Savannah's Victory Drive and served as a memorial to veterans of World War I.
Then, the Georgia Department of Transportation decided the median needed to go to accommodate more vehicles, said Cullen Chambers, executive director of the Tybee Island Historical Society.
"They had control over how that road was designed," Chambers said. "Many (residents) regretted the loss."
Tybee Island officials are now planning on returning a little bit of that history to the island's business district in the south end. Their plan entails building a two-block, palm tree-lined median on Butler from 14th to Tybrisa streets.
"When people get to 14th Street, they will feel like they've arrived in the district," said City Manager Diane Schleicher.
The project - which Schleicher stressed will include a narrower median than the former one and not reduce the number of lanes or parking spaces - will be a modest nod to that history.
But the project also is meant to move the city forward and continue the beautification efforts to the business district that began a few years ago with an improvement project on Tybrisa. The city also plans to reduce the speed limit from 30 to 25 mph and widen the sidewalks to make the area more pedestrian-friendly.
The section of road will serve as a traffic calmer and friendly welcome to the island's visitors, said Dean Morrison, who owns Dizzy Deans Discount Beer and Wine on Butler.
"Once they saw the palm trees, they would say, 'We're here, let's slow down and take a look,'" Morrison said.
Eighty percent of the project will be funded using a $125,000 state transportation enhancement grant, with the city picking up the rest of the tab.
There are some technical hurdles the city has to get past before the proposal can become a reality.
The state transportation department - which maintains that section of Butler, also part of U.S. 80 - prefers the median be at least 8 feet wide. Such standards are meant for highways with speed limits of 50 mph, not a two-block downtown road with a posted speed limit of 30 mph, Schleicher said.
"It's hard for them to apply their standards to our situation," she said.
A wider median would not allow the city to leave all four lanes, plus parking.
As a result, the city intends to take back control of that section of the road.
That means Tybee would be responsible for the road's maintenance and resurfacing. But, such costs would also be minimal since it is such a short section of roadway, Schleicher said. In addition, a recent resurfacing is expected to last another 15 to 25 years, Schleicher said.
A public forum will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday concerning the plan.
Dan Olsen, co-owner of The Sand Bar on Butler, is enthusiastic about the endeavour.
"It will be nicer," Olsen said. "More people will come here."