At trust’s urging, Morgantown reaches deal to save ‘greater number’ of cherry trees

MORGANTOWN — At the insistence of the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust, which provided more than $4 million for the city’s riverfront revitalization plans, a deal has been reached to save “a greater number” of the Yoshino cherry trees planted along the rail-trail as a living memorial.

The 45 trees were gifted to the city by Milan Roh following the death of his wife, in 2001. The trees provide a canopy of blooms over the trail near the Hazel Ruby McQuain Riverfront Park each spring.

In October, City Manager Paul Brake said the riverfront project would include the removal and replacement of “dozens” of the trees, upsetting the Roh family and a number of residents.

The press release issued Monday doesn’t state how many of the trees will be preserved, but Roh said he believes likely between four and  six of the trees will need to be removed.

The release was issued by Steve Farmer, a trustee with the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust. Farmer said he’s pleased a deal has been reached.

“The Trust is thrilled we can preserve more of the trees, a true signature of the park, and continue to respect the intent of the Roh family gift and memorial,” Farmer said.

Roh, 87, said he’s grateful to everyone in the public, the media and on city council who addressed the issue, and noted he’s particularly thankful to Farmer for getting involved.

“I’ve got to thank Stephen Farmer on behalf of the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust. They really made me feel very good and welcome to talk with them. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them and I’m just so happy for the decision that was made,” Roh said. “I just feel very happy.”

According to the release, City Councilor Ryan Wallace is teaming up with Farmer and WVU Director of State and Local Relations Ron Justice to engage WVU faculty in  Horticulture, Forest Resources Management and Biology to potentially clone any trees that are replaced.

Wallace has been an advocate for the Roh family on council, at one point calling on city administration to issue a statement addressing what the Roh family said was a total  lack of communication about the city’s plans regarding the trees.

The trees are in varying stages of health. The release states the WVU project could produce trees ready for planting in approximately five years, allowing for additional trees to be placed or unhealthy trees replaced as needed.

“Our family is overjoyed to have found a solution that works for all parties involved,” Roh said. “We are grateful for Councilor Wallace and the Trust for guiding us to a positive resolution that extends my wife’s memory for years to come.”

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