High Stakes at the Arboretum
Maintaining the integrity of urban green space is a challenge. As expansion and improvements tax the capacity of developed spaces, there is a temptation to nibble away at green space. Persons who use and value green space sometimes find stakes that suggest planned development. They become alarmed. They ask questions.
That happened last week at the Core Arboretum. Visitors since Presidents’ Day have found several stakes in the highest corner of the Arboretum, near the Coliseum parking lot and Monongahela Boulevard. In response to a number of inquiries, this email news item is an attempt to explain what I can about those stakes and what they mean.
The stakes, labeled “toe,” appear to indicate the bottom of an embankment for a new roadway that will sweep in a broad arc from the southeastern end of the Coliseum parking lot, through the top corner of the Arboretum, to a relocated and redesigned intersection at the bottom of Evansdale Drive. The planned relocation of this intersection, moving it roughly 280 feet closer to the Patteson Drive intersection, is an adjustment (from an earlier roadway proposal) that will spare the Arboretum parking lot. This 24-space lot will continue to be available to Arboretum visitors.
The roadway proposal, part of the Evansdale Master Plan, may sound familiar. There were several public hearings about the Master Plan two years ago. There was an article in the Dominion-Post about the proposed roadway affecting the Arboretum. An email news item dated 1/18/12 addressed it.
Goals of the new roadway include improved safety for pedestrians crossing Monongahela Boulevard, and improved vehicular access into and egress from the Coliseum parking lot. All WVU personnel involved in this matter are working sincerely for the betterment of the University. Differences of opinion, when they occur, concern the planning process and the effects of the proposed roadway on the Arboretum.
Efforts to have input into roadway planning have been frustrating. Like Arboretum visitors, I simply found the stakes last week. I alerted the Arboretum’s management committee and my superiors in the chain of command. We have since been shown engineered drawings of the proposed roadway that are not to be shared with the public until the project goes out to bid, perhaps in March. A brief WVU Enews item today (2/24/14) indicated the WVU Board of Governors approved the new roadway proposal at its meeting of Friday, February 21.
The area involved is very small. You can look at the stakes and see for yourself. Please do not remove stakes! Soon to be lost are dozens of exotic trees and shrubs planted from the 1950s through the 2000s. Some represent common species, but others are relatively rare. In addition to their intrinsic value for teaching and enjoyment, the trees provide a visual and sound barrier between the most visited part of the Arboretum on one side and a power line tower and area of high vehicular traffic on the other. In addition to causing the removal of these trees and shrubs, construction will force the relocation of heavily used sections of one trail and the top of the Service Road. These relocations will necessitate the removal of more trees, some planted by humans and some by Mother Nature. The new roadway will introduce more noise into the Arboretum.
On the plus side, planners and engineers believe the roadway will meet the goals of improving pedestrian safety and vehicular traffic flow. These are important and worthwhile goals. I only wish they could be achieved with less impact on the Arboretum.
The WVU administration, which has been steadfast in its successful defense against a right of way claim that could have led to the construction of a very different roadway in another part of the Arboretum, has an opportunity to further demonstrate its goodwill by working out a conservation easement that would protect the Arboretum against having more bits nibbled off in the future. Such an easement has been suggested. The reception this suggestion may find within parts of the WVU administration is unknown as of this writing.
Without a conservation easement, it is all too easy to imagine, years or decades into the future, instances when more stakes appear, indicating more construction projects that will nibble away more little bits of the Arboretum, again and again, until the day the Arboretum ceases to be the teaching and service entity we have known.
With a conservation easement, WVU could enhance its goodwill by ensuring the preservation of a low-cost facility much used by WVU classes for a century (though only acquired by WVU in 1948), a facility beloved by generations of students, alumni, and townspeople, a green space with significant natural assets that are most unusual to find on a University campus.
At the Core Arboretum, the stakes are high.
5234 Life Sciences Building
Follow up from Jon:
Thank you very much to all who have offered to write letters in support of a conservation easement protecting the Arboretum from future development. Please feel free to share information with others who might wish to write such letters.
Letters should be addressed "To Whom It May Concern" and mailed to
Dr. Richard Thomas, Chair
WVU Department of Biology
PO Box 6057
Morgantown, WV 26506-6057
While mailed letters with signatures may have the most impact, some persons prefer to send letters via email.
Richard's email address is