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Friends of Trees begins downtown replacement planning

February 14, 2009
By Wayne Sheets, Contributing Business Writer

Heather Biola, president of the Elkins Friends of Trees Committee, addressed the Downtown Elkins Promotional Committee (the organization that I've referred to as the Elkins Downtown Merchants Association and various other misnomers over the past few years) regarding the committee's plans to begin the replacement of old and damaged trees in the downtown shopping area. Biola noted that there had to be four criteria in place to have an effective and workable program for the replacement program to work.

First she said the city had to have an ordinance to govern the program. Secondly, there has to be a board to enforce the ordinance, a budget and the city must observe an Arbor Day celebration. Apparently, all these elements of the program are in place and the first Arbor Day celebration is tentatively planned for April 24, the national day of celebration.

According to Biola, many of the trees have reached maturity and are in the declining stages of their life. She also pointed out that many merchants who have a storefront with trees on it are unhappy with the messy conditions generated by the fruit of the current trees. Biola said the new maples to be used produce no fruit.

The group has already formulated criteria and protocols to be followed by those who would like trees to be replaced and for the replacement of aged and dying trees. The committee will start replacing trees as soon as possible after the new ones are received. Folks cannot arbitrarily replace or remove trees themselves. They must contact the Friends of Trees Committee for an application and follow the established process.

Plans are being formulated for the Arbor Day celebration including contests for children, a celebratory tree-planting ceremony and several other activities. For more information regarding the program, call Biola at 304-637-7820 or Elkins City Hall at 304-636-1414.

Ed Griesel, president of the Downtown Elkins Promotional Committee, noted at Tuesday's meeting that a grant application for $2,000 has been submitted to cover the cost of printing the first 30,000 brochures encouraging visitors to shop in downtown Elkins. This is a cash grant and the money must be spent "up front" in order to receive the award. He said that he has received "a few hundred dollars" for the project but not enough to cover the project. Griesel hopes merchants, banks, restaurateurs and everyone else who has a vested interest in the downtown economy will step forward voluntarily with the resources to cover the costs of the printing since the project affects everyone. Brochures have already been sent to tour bus conventions and trade shows. Copies of the brochure were sent to the West Virginia Division of Tourism and received its enthusiastic support.

Alex Gartmann, corporate vice president of Good Energy Foods, said that keeping his store open on Sundays is beginning to show results. He mentioned at Tuesday's DEPC meeting that his customer count has increased dramatically over the past year. He also said - and others present agreed - that the "I Shop Locally" program initiated by The Inter-Mountain newspaper is going extremely well and that it should be extended.

Faye Thompson, who operated Thompson Jewelers on Third Street for so many years, has closed her store - that's the bad news. The good news is that her daughter, Kris Wilmoth, will be taking the helm and reopening the store in late March at its new location on Fifth Street where Granny's Attic, and more recently Olde Tyme Primitives, was located. With an expanded inventory, the new store will, according to the new owner, continue to serve its present clientele and cater to the younger generation as well. Faye said she would continue to assist her daughter as a consultant.

It's comforting to see the younger generation's confidence in the city's future strong enough to continue the long-standing business and the faith to expand it. Even though the economy is in the basement right now, it will get better - it always has.

Gov. Joe Manchin is looking for nominees for his Service Award. The Governor's Service Awards honors individuals and groups involved in helping solve serious social problems through volunteer service. The award was established in 1995.

Each year, outstanding individuals, organizations and businesses are nominated for a Governor's Service Award for extraordinary volunteer service to their community.

"I encourage everyone who knows a hero in his/her community, someone who truly represents the spirit of volunteerism in West Virginia, to nominate that individual, organization or business for a Governor's Service Award," said Jean Ambrose, executive director of the West Virginia Commission for National and Community Service.

Nominations are due by April 18. Nomination forms are available on the West Virginia Commission of National and Community Service Web site,, or by calling 800-WV-HELPS (800-984-3577).

Grants and loans are now available for renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements to small businesses and farmers.

Those interested in getting help paying for renewable energy systems or for energy efficiency upgrades to their business or farm may be eligible to obtain grant or loan funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is offering grant and loan funding through a competitive application process.

The Woodlands Development Group is hosting a workshop on available programs and a USDA representative will be presenting and providing assistance with the application process at the Elkins Railroad Depot conference room at 11 a.m. Tuesday. The workshop is free and open to the public, but registration is required to reserve a seat.

To make reservations or for additional information, call Dave Clark at 304-636-6495, ext. 11, or Carol Cain, ext. 33, at Woodlands Development Group. Information on the funding programs (Section 9007 of the Farm Bill) can also be found online at

It may seem a bit premature to be talking about the next July 4 weekend auto show, but like all other important dates, it will be here before we know it. Planners of the event are already holding meetings and getting things under way for West Virginia's largest auto show. Volunteers are needed for every phase of the event. If you would like to have a fun-filled weekend of hard, yet satisfying work, your help would be deeply appreciated. This is the 25th anniversary of the event and it promises to be the best ever. If you would like to help, call the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce and sign up.

I visited my neighbor across the street Thursday morning after that violent line of thunderstorms roared through our area Wednesday evening to see how they survived the ordeal. They were doing fine, and it was a pleasure listening to how he described the wind. He shook his head in amazement and said, "These old mountains roared all night."

Even power company employees, in their fevered efforts to restore power to those many households and businesses, shared a light-hearted moment with me. A two-member crew surveying the damage in our neighborhood stopped as I was on the way over to my neighbor's house, and while talking to them, said, "Think of it this way. It's our way of providing an intimate Valentine's Day candlelight evening, albeit a day or two early."

It's good to see that the sense of humor was not lost in the face of adversity.



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