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Idea to plant wildflowers along seven-mile stretch of Route 33 blooms at Dec. 17 council meeting

BUCKHANNON — They’re wild, wonderful, and they’re definitely evocative of West Virginia.

What’s more, one city councilman believes wildflowers would add appealing pops of color along a well-traveled area of U.S. Route 33 between its intersections with Kesling Mill Road and Sauls Run Road.

At Buckhannon City Council’s meeting Thursday, Dec. 17, councilman CJ Rylands suggested the city look into obtaining funding to plant wildflowers in the median of Route 33 along an approximate seven-mile stretch of the road starting at its intersection with Kesling Mill Road and ending at the Sauls Run intersection near Buckhannon Mountain.

Wildflowers could dot the 10-foot-wide media along that seven-mile stretch at a cost of just under $2,000 a year, Rylands said.

Rylands, who works with Create Buckhannon, said the idea arose when city officials and Create were having a meeting with the West Virginia Department of Highways officials about planting flowers and/or trees in the Route 20/Route 33 interchange areas past Sheetz and the Dollar Tree.

“We were given the go-ahead to submit a proposal for those plantings, and then there’d be a back-and-forth review of that, but in conjunction with that, we also asked about planting flowers in the median [along U.S. Route 33],” Rylands said. “If any of you have driven down around Fayetteville around Route 19, you’ve seen them for several miles there.”

Rylands said the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection oversees Operation Wildflower, but city officials have cobbled together some preliminary numbers regarding the cost of planting wildflowers in the Route 33 median.

“It would be $600 per acre for a three-year-period, and (public works director) Jerry Arnold and (city engineer) Jay Hollen calculated that if we did the seven miles from Kesling Mill to the top of Buckhannon Mountain or specifically, the Sauls Run intersection with seven miles of a 10-foot-wide strip, for three years that would be $5,700 or $1,900 a year,” Rylands said.

Rylands said the application for a grant that could supply the funding for wildflower planting locally is due Feb. 1, 2021.

“It’s not on the agenda tonight, but maybe at our next meeting, we could take action on that if the council desires,” he said.

Skinner asked city recorder Randy Sanders to make a note that the item be included on the agenda of council’s next meeting, which is slated for 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. City finance and administrative director Amberle Jenkins said she supported the idea of both initiatives, saying the Route 33/Route 20 interchange could use some sprucing up.

“I was glad to hear about what we might be doing out at Route (near the Route 33 interchange) because that’s one of the very first things you see if come into this town, and it has a kind of stark industrial look right now,” Jenkins said.

According the DEP’s website, Operation Wildflower commenced in 1990 on a test site along Interstate 64 near Huntington, and now there are more than 250 acres of wildflowers blooming along state roads, including sites on every major interstate highway.

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