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Elkins Tree Board Looks for Answers

July 19, 2008
By Wayne Sheets, Contributing Business Writer

Heather Biola presented a questionnaire to those present at the Downtown Merchants meeting on July 8 seeking answers to some of the issues facing the newly appointed Elkins Tree Board.

The board is seeking answers to the following questions: 1) Do you want to keep shade trees in downtown Elkins? 2) Do you want the trees removed (from) in front of your business? 3) Do you want the trees replaced in front of your business? 4) What types of trees would you like best downtown? 5) What is your ideal solution to the tree problems in downtown Elkins?

According to information disseminated by Biola at the meeting, the Tree Board will be responsible for developing a Tree Plan for the city in cooperation with property owners, business owners and neighborhood associations. The board apparently is charged with developing an Integrated Tree Management program for the removal of unsuitable trees and seeking funding to replace them with appropriate trees to make the city cooler and more attractive.

Biola's handout stated that Elkins Mayor Judy Guye had received a request for the removal of street trees in historic downtown Elkins. These trees, according to Biola, were planted in the 1980s to provide shade for shoppers on Third Street and Davis Avenue. However, some business owners consider these trees "dirty" and generally undesirable. Other business owners believe that shade trees add to the local ambiance, and research shows that shoppers spend more money in business districts with trees. Nevertheless, the Tree Board believes the trees in downtown Elkins are coming to the age when they may need to be replaced with a more desirable species.

Biola also stated that some of the trees should be removed within the next six months but must be replaced, and the group is working on a grant to fund the replacement of those removed.

Councilman Bob Woolwine raised the question as to whether or not the downtown merchants want to keep the flower boxes that surround many of the trees or go with something else that would be less expensive and time consuming to maintain. Benches were one thing mentioned that might replace the flower boxes.

There was no telephone number or address for which to reply to the questionnaire, but I'm sure if you have an opinion or suggestion it would be passed on to the Tree Board if you call the mayor's office at 636-1414.

Last week, I mentioned in this column the success of the July 4 weekend car show even though the weather rendered Elkins City Part unusable. On Monday, an "after-the-event" critique was conducted by the planners of the event. Some interesting issues came up - most of them positive. One was the enthusiasm of many merchants to have it moved from the park to downtown in coming years. Many of the car owners also felt that having it on the streets of downtown Elkins was a good idea. Some, however, said they like the shade and grass of the park when the weather is hot like it's prone to be in July.

To help decide where to have the event in coming years, Mountain State Street Machines President Jim Knicely has initiated a survey of the car owners that will be mailed or e-mailed to them within the next 30 days for more information regarding the move. Merchants are also encouraged to contact the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce office at 636-2717 and voice their opinion.

"Believe it or not, it was the first time in 23 years the show was rained out of the park," Knicely said.

Knicely asked that I pass along on his behalf, and all those involved with the car show, his thanks to Bob Lockhart and the crew of Allegheny Power for their hard work in restoring electricity in the Elkins City Park - especially along Vendor's Row - in preparation for the car show even though it was not used. Apparently, some tree work had been done earlier and the power lines had been disconnected. Bob and his crew reinstalled them for use not knowing that the show was going to be rained out of the park.

The Centennial Celebration of the Elkins Depot was also a smashing success. In case you missed it, Jim Schoonover, president of the West Virginia Railroad Museum, estimated the crowd to exceed 2,000 people. The Shay No. 6 steam engine was a tremendous hit, having been the first steam engine to enter the Elkins railyard since 1976.

Rumors are floating around town that planners are getting their heads together for a repeat performance of the steam engine during the Forest Festival. I cannot confirm or deny them at this point, but I, like many others, am hoping they come true.

As if the Centennial Celebration is not enough, Jennifer Giovannitti, executive director of the Randolph County Development Authority, mentioned at the merchants meeting that other events are in the planning stages for the continued celebration of the depot's first century of service to the community. She didn't provide specific details, but a "Ribs 'n Rails" event is in the works for the Labor Day weekend, and something big is being planned for the Christmas season, too.

Davis & Elkins College President Dr. G. T. "Buck" Smith addressed members of the Elkins Rotary Club at the July 14 luncheon at the YMCA. He touched on several subjects, not the least of which was, in his words, "the extraordinary opportunities at Davis & Elkins College.

"One of those opportunities is helping this generation of students understand the importance of 'going green' to preserve our environment," Smith said. "We have to find ways of getting this generation to understand the importance of this mission. Together, we will."

According to the New York Times, concerns about a slowing economy and rising inflation pushed oil prices down for a second day on Wednesday. The two-day decline totaled more than $10.50 a barrel, but analysts cautioned that it was still unclear how far prices would fall and the respite may be temporary. The drop in oil was also caused by new evidence that Americans were driving less because of gas prices, according to a nationwide survey by the motorist group AAA.

Gas prices have jumped 35 percent in the last year and were a big reason inflation rose 1.1 percent in June, the government said on Wednesday. In the last 12 months, the Consumer Price Index has risen 5 percent, the biggest annual jump since May 1991.

The CPI report, released Wednesday, reinforces what many economists, including those at the Fed, have warned about for months: Americans are being forced to pay significantly higher prices, even as the job market weakens and big employers announce plans to lay off thousand of workers. Richard Moody, an economist at the real estate firm Mission Residential, said, "No matter how one slices and dices the CPI data, the bottom line is that U.S. workers are falling farther and farther behind."

The price of gasoline rose another 5 cents a gallon last week at some gas stations when crude reached the record price of $147 a barrel before it began to decline. Now that the price has dropped, let's see how long it takes for the reduction to show up at the pump - if it ever does.



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