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Martinsburg thins trees in downtown

September 21, 2000

Martinsburg thins trees in downtown



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

Martinsburg downtown treesMARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Queen Street looks considerably different this week now that city workers have removed 12 trees along the route through the downtown business district.

The major reason the trees were removed last week was that birds roosted in the trees, creating a mess along the sidewalks, street and on nearby buildings, Martinsburg Public Works Director Jack Leonard said.

"It was unsanitary," Leonard said.

The flowering pear trees had grown large in their planters and the birds used the leaves as their home.

The mess they created was causing complaints "on a daily basis," said City Manager Mark Baldwin. "We were having city crews hose the areas down just about every other day."

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He said the removal was part of an ongoing project to remove trees along the street that had grown big, old and unstable, causing a safety problem.

"You could push on them and they would lean," he said. "It was an issue of safety." The tree roots were starting to intrude on city sewer lines, he said.

"Almost all of the comments we have received have been positive," he added. "The No. 1 thing people say is 'you took care of the issue.' The second thing people say is that the actual downtown looks more open, you can see the historic buildings and the business signage."

Patti Rice, owner of Southwood Books at 139 S. Queen St., has a planter outside her business where a tree grew until last week. She applauds the city action.

"It's just been a nightmare the last five years because the trees that were planted here didn't lose their leaves in the winter," Rice said. "So they'd feed in the winter and leave.

"But this year, they came in June and July and started roosting. There were so many of them. And the mess was so bad there was almost no place to walk between buildings. And the smell was awful," she said.

Rice wanted a permanent solution, not one that moved the problem somewhere else. Tree trimming didn't work.

"The downtown area is important to every business person," said Rice, who has owned the store for 12 years. "You have to make it attractive and inviting. And I don't know anybody who wants to walk through bird droppings to get where they want to go."

Leonard said the city has wood from the trees and mulch from the branches for people who want it.

Baldwin said the City Council, which approved the removal, will consider what to do next.

"We've still got quite a few trees and we maybe will plant smaller trees or shrubs in the planters," he said. "We're open to all suggestions."

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