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Safety of Kanawha City trees questioned after one falls on house

In the 4200 block of Washington Avenue in Charleston's Kanawha City neighborhood, about a dozen pin oak trees tower above the street, shading homes along the road and creating a living tunnel over the street itself.

But after one of the trees collapsed during a storm early in July and fell on a home, questions were raised about the stability of the trees as well as other older trees throughout Kanawha City.

"It's like a big tree cathedral," said Kanawha County Extension Agent John Porter at Tuesday's Municipal Beautification Commission meeting.

The commission visited the area during its meeting as city workers trimmed one of the trees near the one that collapsed.

Charles Denham, a commission member who lives in Kanawha City, said the trees were planted in the 1910s and 1920s, and some people bought their homes in the neighborhood in part due to the presence of the trees.

"The majority of people in Kanawha City really like the trees," Denham said.

However, as the trees grow older, some are starting to show signs of aging, like hollowing.

City Public Grounds Director Harley Goodwin Jr. said the city is maintaining the trees but has removed a few that have shown signs of weakness. He said the city regularly checks on the trees to make sure they remain structurally sound.

"I've got a lot of people concerned," he said.

But as the trees reach the end of their lives and die, younger trees are replanted in their place. Denham said red oak, maple and elm trees are examples of species that have been planted.

"I would hate for Kanawha City to look like other parts of the city without trees," he said.

The commission decided to come up with ideas to present at its next meeting on how to develop an action plan to deal with the trees in the future. The commission also plans to work with the Kanawha City Community Association to get community input from the neighborhood.

"Certainly we need community input," Denham said. "There's a variety of opinions."

In other business, the commission unanimously approved a request from the West Side Main Street neighborhood association to have the mural painted.

The mural will cover the entire side of the building at 216 W. Washington St., which is on the north side of the street.

"We're really looking to increase the public art we have on the West Side," said Stephanie Johnson, the director of West Side Main Street.

Artist Charly Jupiter Hamilton will paint the mural and will be compensated by funds from West Side Main Street and private sources. The mural itself is planned to be a depiction of the West Side, with different parts of the mural dealing with different aspects of the neighborhood.

"When you see this mural, you're actually looking at the West Side," Johnson said.

Johnson said the mural will start being painted in a few weeks and should be complete within six weeks.

The request to paint the mural had to go through the Municipal Beautification Commission because city law requires the commission to review any large murals or graphics to ensure compliance with city zoning code.

Gaddy Engineering Company committed to maintaining the mural for five years. The company is located across Washington Street from the building that will receive the mural.

Contact writer Matt Murphy at or 304-348-4817.


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