Round 'n' round

Larry Barnfield, who lives on the corner of the historic Five Points intersection in Summerville, is seen through his blue-bottle tree. Barnfield is in favor of a transportation plan that calls for a roundabout at the intersection.

Brad Nettles

SUMMERVILLE -- Five Points is one of those quirky little spots that make for the quaint charm of this town.

So maybe the whimsical proposal to put a roundabout at the intersection was inevitable in Dorchester County's new transportation master plan.

The roundabout would be the last of three along historic South Main Street, among the period homes, Azalea Park and John McKissick Field. It would collar traffic at the point where the street meets Carolina Avenue, the historic downtown street, and where plantation and country roads once converged on both. Traffic now comes at it from five directions.

But the proposed roundabout isn't very likely to go anywhere any time soon. Besides, where would Larry Barnfield put his blue-bottle tree?

The blue bottle tree is a Gullah tradition and a Lowcountry emblem. Bottles are hung on the bare limbs of trees to trap haints, or haunting ghosts. Legend says the shine in them attracts the haints, which become trapped in the bottles. The wind blowing over the bottles is said to be their moans.

Barnfield, the Dorchester School District 2 fine arts director, and his wife, Pam, designed their tree using rebar, working hands-on with a metal sculptor. They placed it during the Christmas season out where the tip of his property juts into Five Points; one more eye-catching curiosity in the district, part of an effort to spruce up the little wedge of ground.

The roundabout would likely cut right through that wedge.

Oddly enough, though, Barnfield, wants to see a roundabout built at Five Points -- bottle tree or not.

"I told the town I would give them that corner, that wedge," he said. A roundabout is itself a period piece that would add to the ambience of the district, in his opinion. "What takes away from the ambience is the massive amount of traffic lights you have there now. With a roundabout, you wouldn't have all those wires up there."

In the landscaped center of the roundabout, you could put a water feature, or a sculpture, the fine arts director said.

Or maybe a blue-bottle tree?

"I think that would be wonderful," Barnfield said beaming.

Roundabouts, or intersection circles, are becoming popular in the United States and the Lowcountry; they have been installed in Mount Pleasant, among other towns. The circle is considered safer than traffic signals and tends to slow down drivers.

But don't hold your breath for this roundabout to be built. With the collapse of tax revenues, the county is more than $100 million short on a file-full of road projects already. And the S.C. Department of Transportation isn't in much better shape.

There's no money to launch this sort of project in the near future, said Richard Kopfmueller of the county Transportation Plan Advisory Committee.

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744 or bpetersen@postandcourier.com.