History of the West Virginia Botanic Garden

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PRE HISTORY of TIBBS RUN RESERVOIR

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1892

Land is purchased

to build a small reservoir with wooden pipes to carry water for The Original Water Works of TIBBS RUN RESERVOIR.

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1912-1925

Reservoir is enlarged to meet the water needs of Morgantown

More than seven miles of 12 inch pipe is laid in 1925 to carry water to Morgantown. A resident caretaker lived in a small house to the left of the current entrance, where there is only a foundation left today. His job was to treat the water, which he accomplished with lime and calgon to prevent it from becoming “roily”.

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1969-1980

Morgantown disconnects the Tibbs Run Reservoir

A new water system is built for the city, and the Tibbs Run Reservoir becomes a place to swim and picnic. It was finally drained in 1980.

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THE FORMATIVE YEARS of the Botanic Garden

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1981

The Landscape Arboretum Task Force is assembled

to identify needs of a garden and discuss potential sites. Of this group, Bradford Bearce, Edie Jett, and George Longenecker are still active.

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1983

The task force changed the name to the West Virginia Botanic Garden

On December 13, the certificate of incorporation was issued by the Secretary of State.

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1984

Logo competition

A logo competition for the botanic garden sponsored by Susan Barry, Barry’s Office Service, is won by Irma Barazzone of Fairmont.

 

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1988

1st look at Tibbs Run as a future site of the Garden

In March, Florence Merow, Richard Zimmerman, and George Longenecker meet with Tom Urquhart, executive director of the Morgantown Utility Board, to explore the use of the Tibbs Reservoir property.

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1990

A near miss

The Morgantown Utility Board proposes to strip mine coal at Tibbs Reservoir. Milt Cohen sounds the alarm and area neighbors ask City Council chambers to object. The proposal is voted down.

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1995

The Tibbs Run Coalition is formed

when the Morgantown Utility Board proposes timbering the Tibbs and Mayfield tracts. The coalition is charged with preparing a management plan for Tibbs Run.

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1996

The Coalition recommends the site be used as a botanic garden

in a plan presented to City Council. Dan Boroff, the city manager, stipulates that to become a botanic garden, the West Virginia Botanic Garden must be incorporated, recognized as a nonprofit with 501(c)(3) status, and carry two million dollars liability insurance.

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1997-1999

Initial lease negotiations

Negotiations culminate with a lease agreement on May 18, 1999, when City Council enacts Ordinance 099-16. The agreement allows for limited timbering before the West Virginia Botanic Garden, Inc. takes possession of the land.

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2000-2001

A home at last

On June 13, City Council authorizes the West Virginia Botanic Garden, Inc. to take active control of the Tibbs Run property

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Regular board meetings begin

George Longenecker calls together the first meeting of the new WVBG Board of Directors.

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Site improvements begin with regularly scheduled weekend work

  • The upper loop parking area is completed.
  • The entrance is widened, the entry flower beds are designed by Sven Velinden and planted by WVU horticulture students and the gate is relocated.
  • An entrance sign is designed by George Longenecker, constructed and installed by Ellen Hrabovsky.
  • A bridge across Jones Run is proposed and later donated by the Appalachian Hardwood Center.
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Educational programs and events begin

  • The public is invited to the first organized mushroom walk and tree removal demonstration.
  • The first brochure is designed and printed.
  • The public is invited to the first Gardens of the Mon garden tour held at various private homes throughout the county.
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Signing the lease

City Council grants West Virginia Botanic Garden, Inc. a long-term renewable lease on the property.

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1st annual Plant Sale

The Garden’s first annual plant sale is initiated with the help of the Over Cheat Garden Club, with experts to provide horticultural advice.

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2002-2003

Following public input, a Master Plan is developed

by LaQuatra/Bonci landscape architects to guide the development of the Garden.

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Site improvements continue

  • Shade house is built to house donated plants.
  • Work begins on the Eclectic Garden at the entrance.
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Our 1st grant

The first grant of $55,480 is presented to Board members by Governor Wise from the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trail Program. The grant provides an 80/20 matching funds.

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2004-2005

The 1st garden is planted in the reservoir basin

The Shade Garden, designed by George Longenecker, is planted with the help of several volunteer groups.

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Volunteer groups lend a hand

Site work continues with the Eagle Scouts, Morgantown Learning Academy, Mountaineer Challenge Academy, and several WVU classes and clubs.

 

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1st bench donation

In honor of their 75th Anniversary, the West Virginia Garden Clubs donate a bench, now located in the Shade Garden.

 

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Regularly scheduled educational walks begin

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The first quarterly newsletter is published

and continued with three issues a year.

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2006

A new entrance road

and second parking lot are completed. Landscapes Plus is contracted to build the new entrance road and parking lot which is completed in the summer of 2006.

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Completion of the Reservoir Loop

Landscapes Plus also wins the bid to install the first three-quarter-mile long handicapped accessible trail.

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Butterfly Garden creation

Construction begins on the Butterfly Garden designed by George Longenecker. The two wings are planted by volunteers.

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2007

Gateway to the Garden Celebration is held

in June to recognize donors and volunteers at the Botanic Garden.

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2009

Our 1st employee

A part-time Volunteer Coordinator/Education Director is hired.

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1st annual Fall Children's Festival

is held in October.

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2010

Construction begins on Wetlands Boardwalk

First section of the boardwalk is completed and associated interpretive signs are installed.

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2011

Completion of Wetlands Boardwalk

Additional interpretive signs are added.

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1st summer camp

The first annual WVBG Summer Nature Camp for children is offered.

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2012

A longer lease

A new 25-year lease with the City of Morgantown is signed.

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Growth of the Gardens

Enhancements are made to the Shade Garden and a new Secret Garden is created.

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2013

Infrastructure improvements

Utilities for the future development of the Garden are installed.

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Educational program expansion

The first curriculum-based elementary school field trips are held at the WVBG.

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Rhododendron Garden is begun

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New interpretive signs

Signs about the history of the Tibbs Run Reservoir are produced and installed around the Garden.

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2014

Dam breach is begun

The required breach of the Tibbs Run reservoir dam is underway – this is one of the first steps toward the development of the water features proposed in the Master Plan.

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A new sculpture is unveiled

A red-tailed hawk ecosculpture by Ben Gazsi is unveiled at a Garden Party event.

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A part-time Assistant Site Manager is hired

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An additional 1.7 acres of land is purchased

Frontage along Tyrone Road is acquired with significant support from the West Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association.

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A stragetic plan for growth is completed

The WVBG engages two nationally recognized experts in public garden design and management to help the Board of Directors develop a strategic plan.

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Dam breach is completed

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West Virginia University donates building

WVU donates an energy-efficient building that was designed and built for the 2013 US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition.  The building will eventually become our Welcome Center.

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Assistance received for completion of the Welcome Center

WVBG receives funding from the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust for the purchase of equipment and creation of a vegetated roof for the new Welcome Center.

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2015

A part-time Administrative Assistant is hired

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Funding is received for an updated Master Plan

The Dominion Foundation Environmental Stewardship grants program awards the WVBG $25,000 to support hiring a landscape architecture firm to develop a new Core Master Plan.

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2016

A change in leadership

George Longenecker steps down as Executive Director and the WVBG hires a new part-time Executive Director, Bill Mills, in April.

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'Rosie the Riveter' Tribute held at the Garden

Local Girl Scout Troops plant a pink dogwood in tribute to the working women of World War II.

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A new home for activities

The Welcome Center is essentially complete.  The administrative offices move into the building in June.  A dedication is held, and the new Education Center hosts Summer Nature Camp and other activities.

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New Core Master Plan is completed

After soliciting input from stakeholders, as well as an implementation plan with approximate costs for each phase. These will provide important guidance for future development of the Garden.

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AED is donated to the Garden

The installation of this device prompts the initiation of CPR, AED, and first aid training for staff and volunteers.
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2017

Executive Director becomes full-time

on January 1, 2017 with the assistance of the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust.

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Native hickory floors are installed

in the central event room of the Welcome Center.

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The Garden changes its name

The Board of Directors votes to add ‘at Tibbs Run Preserve’ to our name to better describe our site, which is a combination of more formal gardens and natural hemlock forest in the area closest to Tibbs Run.

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The Garden hosts its first Dinner Series

‘A Season of Good Taste’ offers the chance to dine at the Welcome Center with renowned local chefs.

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Educational programming expands again

with nearly triple the number of programs offered in previous years.

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Lower parking lot is renovated

with new gravel, the addition of concrete parking stops, bollards, and a new entry garden.

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The Shade Garden is renovated

with the addition of low stone walls and large Longshadow planters.

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Rhododendron Garden is enhanced with bulbs and herbaceous plants

adding texture, color, and bloom to the area.

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The Education Center is completed

with new screen and projector, as well as an outdoor terrace.

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A part-time Educator and Groundskeeper are hired

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A new Summer Nature Camp is created

Camp SOAR (Stewardship, Outdoor Appreciation, and Readiness) is created for children Grades 5-8 by our new Educator, bringing Nature Camp up to five weeks.

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The George W. Longenecker Shade Garden is dedicated

on September 23 at a ceremony celebrating his lifelong contributions and service to the WVBG.

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2018

Upstairs kitchen in the Welcome Center is completed

with new cabinets and appliances, essentially completing the works on the building.

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Welcome Center becomes Education & Event Center

The building is renamed to more accurately represent its function.

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Library is established

Two dedicated volunteers catalog the WVBG library, and create an online interface for the collection.

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Our Mission Statement is updated

The Board of Directors votes to update our mission statement.

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A part-time Development Director is hired

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EQT Event Lawn is completed

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2019

A change in leadership

Bill Mills Retires as Executive Director in January.  Former President Dave Barnett serves as Interim Executive Director until Philip Smith is hired for the position in April.

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