Many people travel up Interstate 79 to catch a Mountaineer game in Morgantown. But if you're looking for an activity that is decidedly green instead of blue and gold, visit the West Virginia Botanic Garden.
"Begun as only a dream in 2000, the WVBG is on its way to becoming a reality on the 82-acre former Tibbs Run Reservoir property off the Tyrone Road in Monongalia County," according to the garden's Web site. "The former 15-acre basin will be transformed into two smaller pools with islands and aquatic plant displays. The old water works, still present, will stand as a link to the past."
Bradford Bearce, secretary of the Botanic Garden, said the area is a great place to spend a day viewing the flora and fauna of West Virginia. "We have a nearly mile-long wheelchair-accessible trail that encircles the reservoir lakebed, passes many of the historical artifacts of the circa-1889 reservoir, and offers views of streams, old-growth forest, meadows and ornamental gardens."
If you're more adventurous, there are three additional miles of trails for the hiker. "They wind through about 80 acres of old-growth forest and meadow and cross streams. A Zen garden can be found in a remote corner," Bearce said.
The Botanic Garden features a large variety of plants appropriate to the region's climate and soils in both designed and natural settings. Visitors will learn from these gardens in every season of the year. Most of the land is wooded, and much will remain undisturbed except for trail construction and some plant enhancement.
The garden is built on the former site of the Tibbs Run Reservoir, which provided water for Morgantown from the late 1800s through the 1970s. After its life as a source of water for the city, it became a popular spot for swimming and picnics. It was drained in 1980.
Work in the '80s allowed volunteers to look for appropriate sites for the garden, for the garden to be incorporated, a logo to be designed, and dreams to take hold. Following controversies at the Tibbs Reservoir area surrounding the ideas of strip mining and timbering in the '90s, the site finally was recognized as the official West Virginia Botanical Garden.
Many people have been involved from the beginning of the program, including designer of the shade and butterfly gardens and current Executive Director George Longenecker, WVU horticulture students Edie Jett and Bearce, Eagle Scouts, Morgantown Learning Academy and Mountaineer Challenge Academy, and several WVU classes and clubs have helped clear, plant and maintain the garden.
Landscape architects LaQuatra/Bonci developed a master plan. Grants from the Federal Highway Administration Recreational Trail Program, as well as from many private donors, have combined with help from the city of Morgantown to make the gardens grow.
Garden volunteers hope to install sewer and water lines soon, according to Bearce.
A winter botany walk led by WVU landscape architect emeritus Longenecker will be held at 9 a.m. Dec. 6. If you ever wondered how to tell trees and shrubs apart when leaves have fallen, this is the walk for you. George knows them all by their bud, twig and leaf scar characteristics and bark and knows how to teach it to others. All ages are welcome. Attendees should wear hiking footwear, preferably waterproof.
The garden is on Tyrone Road between Snake Hill Road and W.Va. 7. The entrance gate will be open to allow parking at the lower parking lot. After a winter hiatus, guided walks will begin again in April 2009.
The organization is always looking for donors and volunteers. For information, see www.wvbg.org.
Reach Sara Busse at sara.bu...@wvgazette.com or 348-1249.