Davis Park renovations enter Phase II

Chris Dorst
Kanawha Garden Club members (from left) Kathy Muehlman, Nina Peyton and Stuart Smith prune some dangling branches at Davis Park in preparation for a private Party in the Park Wednesday evening to raise money for park renovations. The club is in the middle of a three-year, $170,000 park redo.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Downtown denizens who keep an eye on Davis Park should get ready for more changes: Phase II of the Kanawha Garden Club's park makeover is about to start.Under Phase I, city workers removed the overgrown hedges along the park's Lee Street and Capitol Street borders and behind interior benches, while contractors removed and refinished about half of those wooden benches.Now, thanks to a recent $22,000 grant from the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, all the remaining benches and tables will get the same treatment this fall, said Kathy Becker, community project committee chairman from the Kanawha Garden Club. Landscapers also want to cut down four Bradford pear trees this fall.The tree removal is all part of the master plan drawn up by designer Tim Forren of Forren Soil, the West Side landscape company. Forren donated his services to the garden club.The four pear trees, planted roughly in a line near Capitol Street starting from the One Davis Square building, probably date back to the 1980s, the last time Davis Park was renovated, Becker said."These are overgrown, over-mature trees that have lost their strength and are susceptible to storms," she said. "There's no one more conscious about tree removal than the Municipal Beautification Commission and they agree, they have to come out." Four new trees will be planted in their place.City workers removed a tree or two last year and may take out more next year during the third and final phase of the project, Becker said. They also pruned back trees, including a giant yew that towers beside the green-stained statue of Henry Gassaway Davis."That was cleaned out a lot," Becker said. "It's got an interesting trunk structure. We chose to leave that open. Sometimes when school groups come here, kids like to climb in that tree."An evergreen tree -- Becker calls it the Christmas tree -- that sits in a circular planting bed in the middle of the park will also come down this year. It blocks views through the park to Summers Street.
And beds full of English ivy will be removed and replanted with mostly native West Virginia species -- mountain laurel, phlox and ferns.One small bed near the One Davis Square entrance will be filled with a single variety of daffodil -- the Garden Club of America daffodil.Phase III, scheduled for fall of 2013, encompasses the area around the gazebo toward Summers Street, with flowerbeds all around.All this work costs plenty of money, far more than the garden club has on hand.
"Our budget is about $170,000. About $60,000 of that is in-kind contributions from the work the city is doing and Tim Forren's design services," Becker said."We are raising the rest, around $100,000. We have applied for grants. We are raising money. We're at least halfway there."Besides the GKVF grant, BrickStreet Insurance and the Elliot Foundation each kicked in $5,000 and other applications are pending, she said.On Wednesday, weather permitting, the club will hold an invitation-only fundraiser at the park. With 200 or more people attending, the club could clear more than $10,000, Becker said.A handful of club members gathered at the park in the chill and drizzle Monday evening to pick up trash, clean benches, trim branches and otherwise clean up before the event."This can be a space for public functions and one reason for having [the fundraiser] here is to showcase its potential," Becker said.
Reach Jim Balow at balow@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.
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