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Into the Garden: Gateway Greenspace

The story below appeared in Sunday’s Gazette-Mail.

By Sara Busse

GreenspaceGazetteThe much-anticipated Charleston Gateway Greenspace will be dedicated at 1:30 p.m. May 16. A lot has been written and reported about transforming a parking lot into a garden — it’s a beautiful green gem right in the middle of town.

If you haven’t had a chance to stroll along the walkways of this lovely spot, visit soon. Take your kids. Add this to your Clay Center experience. Just go.

Susie Salisbury, Charleston Area Alliance wonderwoman, all-around good citizen and tireless worker, has been one of the forces behind the Greenspace.

“We were starving for downtown greenspace,” Salisbury said. She pointed to several studies that have been done over the past 30 years noting the need for redevelopment of downtown Charleston, with the space around the Clay Center as one of the keys to connecting the state Capitol with downtown.

Salisbury said that the most frequently asked questions early on in the project included parking for the Clay Center and finances. The Clay Center addressed the parking issue by creating a new parking spot in the same block. Money has come from many sources, including several grants from the Federal Highway Administration, CURA, various garden clubs, private donors and many other sources. A major contribution will be announced at the opening ceremony.

Another question often thrown at Salisbury is about lighting — folks are worried about safety at night. On a recent visit, Salisbury pointed out the array of different lighting sources.

“There are LED lights and special-effect lighting on the stream. It will be very well-lit,” Salisbury assured me.

There are educational opportunities galore — the space represents a slice of West Virginia natural history. According to information from Salisbury, the stacked terraces that create the backdrop to the park resemble the rugged sandstone cliffs of the southern Appalachian Mountains. A rocky stream fed by recycled rooftop storm water tumbles down the cliffs into a small pool at the foot of the terraces.

“These boulders were brought in from the Marmet Locks and Dam worksite,” Salisbury said, pointing to the huge, gray stones. “And those others came from a mountaintop mining site.” She pointed a “bubbler” fountain basin carved into one of the stones, cut by hand by Orders Construction workers.

“They were so scared they would mess up this huge boulder,” Salisbury said. “They were out here chiseling away for days. They did a wonderful job — it’s just perfect.”

The plants are a who’s-who list of West Virginia species. Trees include: Acer rubrum (red maple), Betula lenta (yellow birch), Carya ovata (shagbark hickory), Fagus grandifolia (American beech), Oxydendron arboretum (sourwood), Pinus virginiana (Virginia pine), Quercus coccinea (scarlet oak), Amelanchier laevis (serviceberry), Carpinus caroliniana (ironwood), Cornus florida (flowering dogwood), and Halesia carolina (Carolina silverbell).

Shrubs include: Hammamelis virginiana (witchhazel), Kalmia latifolia (mountain laurel) and Rhododendron calendulaceum (flame azalea).

They’ve used Pachysandra procumbens (Alleghany spurge) as groundcover. Perennials and grasses include Aster divaricatus (white wood aster), Athyrium fillix-femina (lady fern), Aster novae-angliae (New England aster), Aquilegia canadensis (red columbine), Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower), Heuchera americana (alum root), Iris versicolor (blueflag iris), Penstemon digitalis (talus slope penstemon), Panocum virgatum (switch grass), Rudebeckia fulgida (black-eyed Susan), Schizacrim scoparius (little bluestem), Tiarella cordofolla (foamflower) and Thelypteris noveboracesis (New York fern).

The Kanawha County Master Gardeners will be at the opening today doing a gardening craft with children.

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