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Project begins to improve Charleston park

Another round of beautification projects is in the works for Davis Park in downtown Charleston, the city's Municipal Beautification Commission learned Tuesday.Kanawha Garden Club officer Beth Robey told the commission that the club has four projects identified so far for the third and final phase of the club's involvement with the park.Since late 2011, the Kanawha Garden Club has been working to spruce up the park, including cleaning up benches and caring for flora throughout the area. However, the club's partnership with the city for work in the park is scheduled to end late next year.Three of the projects Robey suggested to the commission centered around the gazebo, which Robey said suffers from mold and moss growth because of its shaded location. One of the goals of the gazebo projects is to increase the attractiveness of the structure.First, the garden club wants to look into removing some of the trees near the gazebo to allow more sunlight to reach the gazebo and allow remaining trees to grow healthier canopies, Robey said."There are some trees that are healthier than others," she said.Tim Forren, a member of the commission who has been active in the Davis Park rehabilitation work, said if trees are removed, it wouldn't detract from the overall aura of the park."I don't think we'd even notice it," he said.The club is also proposing painting the ceiling on the interior of the gazebo a robin's egg blue color and put decorative lighting around the top of the gazebo that will remain year-round.Besides the gazebo, the club is also in the process of developing new banners for the entrance to the park. The commission approved the purchase of the lights, but wanted to hold off on other decisions until commission members visit the park next week.Robey said once the club ends its involvement with the park, the club plans to leave the city some funding for continued upkeep of the park.In other business, the commission:* Heard a presentation from City Manager David Molgaard about the continuing project to construct bike lanes along Kanawha Boulevard.Molgaard said the city is still in the design and development stage for the bike lanes, and wanted the commission's input on beautification projects in relation to the work.
"I know the Municipal Beautification Commission has always been active and does a great job with plantings on the Boulevard," he said.
Mary Jane Vanderwilt, the commission's chairwoman, said the commission wanted to make sure an access point near Drug Emporium by Patrick Street remains open, and Molgaard said it would.The bike lanes are planned to go from Patrick Street to Magic Island and will involve some minor redesigning of the Boulevard. Money for the project will come from redirected funds that were originally marked for a trail over an abandoned railroad trestle on the West Side.When the trestle project proved too expensive for the time being and funding available, city leaders opted to construct the bike lanes instead. The plan was released at a city council meeting in September, and construction could begin as early as next year.The bike lanes and the trestle are part of a long-term project to create bike trails throughout the city and into South Charleston via the trestle.Vanderwilt said the latest push for the bike lanes is not the first time the idea has come up.
"This is the third go-around to put a bicycle trail on the Boulevard," she said.* Heard from Molgaard about future improvements to Slack Plaza and Brawley Walkway, which has faced ongoing social issues and crime.Molgaard said the city will likely receive a $680,000 grant to fund planning and rehabilitation of the area, and is waiting on a notice to proceed to be able to use the funding, which will help put together a master plan for the area."I think it behooves us to just go ahead and do a master plan," he said.* Received an update about the ongoing tree survey in Kanawha City, which will allow a maintenance plan to be created for the trees. For now, the project will first be undertaken in Kanawha City, but the commission had previously discussed expanding the program to the rest of the city if the survey in Kanawha City is successful.Charleston Public Grounds Director Harley Goodwin said just under 40 trees have been documented already, and more are in the process of being assessed.Goodwin said the project will continue throughout the winter months, and then the trees will be analyzed for their current health.In recent months, concerns have been raised about the maintenance and condition of trees in Kanawha City, particularly after one of the large pin oak trees fell on a house in the 4200 block of Washington Avenue. Some of those trees are about 100 years old.Therefore, having a maintenance plan in place will allow the city to be more proactive in maintaining and removing trees that could be dying, commission member and Kanawha City resident Chuck Denham said at a previous commission meeting. Information collected for the survey will include location, closest address, species, condition and size.Contact writer Matt Murphy at or 304-348-4817. 
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