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Cha, Cha Chia Pet sound buffers: Eco-friendly or money hungry?

By Tom Fetters

Ohio’s plan to test so-called Chia Pet sound buffers along a stretch of interstate seems to have a few pluses. Yet I can’t help but wonder if the “green” associated with the effort will come to represent money spent on the project more than eco-friendliness.

According to a description of the plan in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Ohio Department of Transportation plans to test a 12-foot-high, 400-foot-long wall of vegetation this fall along a stretch of Interstate 70 east of Columbus. Each triangular section will have a nine-foot-wide base that narrows to a peak at the top. The goal is to provide an environmentally friendly sound barrier.

And in addition to the environmental component, the Green Noise Wall should be more attractive — and maybe more effective — than typical concrete sound barriers built along highways.

ODOT spokesman Scott Varner said the project, including the construction and research, is expected to cost about $300,000 and will be paid for from the ODOT budget.

“It is like a Chia (Pet) wall – basically filling bags with dirt and seed, watering it and watching it grow up and out,” Varner was quoted as saying. “And much like the novelty plant on the windowsill, it will take some care in the beginning and ongoing maintenance.”

Sounds intriguing, and I’d surely welcome a lush border along the interstate instead of bland and boring concrete walls. But I hope passing motorists come to view the buffers more as a step toward a greener America than another drain for taxpayer dollars.

Tom Fetters is a copy editor at The Daily Reporter. He has a bald Chia Homer Simpson at home.

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