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Public hearing set for discussion of nature preserve

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Community members may give their opinions of the future of the Wallace Hartman Nature Preserve at a public meeting later this week.

The West Virginia Land Trust will host a public meeting Thursday to discuss the preserve and how it can be improved, as well as the development of a management plan. The organization was given a $10,000 grant from the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation last year to create the plan, which would make forest maintenance and recreation recommendations.

"We want to identify the natural resource offerings that are there and how to keep healthy and ... maintain a healthy forest over time," said Terrell Ellis, senior program manager for the Land Trust.

Ellis said an insect called the hemlock woolly adelgid has infected the forest's trees, so part of the management plan would outline how to identify and treat affected trees. And while the trust would like to improve the preserve's trail system, Ellis said it must be careful not to negatively affect its wetlands.

The Wallace Hartman Nature Preserve is 52 acres of forest and wetland, with accesses on Hampton Road in South Hills and Adrian Drive off South Ruffner Road. Dolly Wallace Hartman donated the land to Kanawha County Parks and Recreation in 2002 with the request it be used for the public's enjoyment. Hartman also gave the Land Trust a conservation easement, which ensures it will be used for its intended purpose.

"We want to talk about trail systems," Ellis said of Thursday's meeting. "We want to talk about, would people like to see some interpretive signage? Would they use it for an outdoor classroom?"

There isn't a mechanism in place for the Land Trust to receive public feedback about the preserve, but that's something Ellis would like to see change.

"Part of our management plan will be to develop an outreach plan so people can know more about the preserve, and whom to contact about it if they have questions," Ellis said.

Because Parks and Recreation owns the preserve, they are charged with its upkeep. Ellis said the plan would help identify what work needs to be done and address the feasibility of future projects.

"We want to work with the Parks and Recreation Commission to identify what needs to be done, what the estimated costs are going to be," Ellis said. "And, if there's a way we can assist with that, we want to help them, if possible."

The public meeting Thursday will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. in Mathes Hall at St. Matthews Episcopal Church, 36 Norwood Road. For more information about the meeting or the Wallace Hartman Nature Preserve, call Terrell Ellis at 304-346-7788.

Reach Rachel Molenda at rachel.molenda@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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