New task force working toward soccer field use
Efforts once aimed at restoring a safe playing surface to a single field at the county soccer complex have grown into a more ambitious move to develop 25 acres of recreational land held by the county along U.S. 522 south of Berkeley Springs.
Citizens and county officials, led by Brownfield experts, last week created a taskforce to weigh community suggestions and draw up plans for the project.
Morgan County has already received a $5,000 FOCUS grant from the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center, and a $1,000 planning grant from the West Virginia Redevelopment Collaborative for the project.
Brownfields are properties that have or are thought to have pollution problems from former uses, like industrial or chemical operations.
Luke Elser of the Brown-fields center outlined where things stand with the soccer field during the meeting on Thursday, February 2.
The first phase of an environmental site assessment has already begun, and engineers will decide when to begin the more in-depth Phase 2 study.
“Once the property is fully characterized, we can create a clean-up plan,” said Jeff Mitchell from Triad Engineering.
Soil tests done before at the site won’t be duplicated, but soil or water samples might be taken from other parts of the property or different soil depths.
Previous tests were done when metal, glass and other debris was found near the surface of the new field. The county shut down use of the field because of safety concerns from parents and community members.
Based on those tests, the property history and what he’s seen, Mitchell said the soccer field site has “near-surface issues” and the possibility of metals in the soil that might have to be addressed.
Different environmental issues have different remedies, Mitchell said.
Some contaminants can be contained with pavement, while others have to be removed or sealed off in other ways.
Vision for whole property
Elser asked if the county would consider assembling a taskforce to gather community suggestions and come up with a development plan for the 9-acre property and the 16-acre parcel on the west side of U.S. 522.
In a short workshop exercise, Elser asked meeting attendees to draw what buildings or fields or features they would like to see created on both parcels.
“Think about what the property can be in the future, rather than the issues that led us here today,” Elser said.
Ideas included multiple soccer playing and practice fields, concession and bathroom buildings, picnic and activity pavilions, walking and hiking trail, football fields, tennis courts, a horse/pony ring or arena, an amphitheatre, multi-purpose and County Fair buildings, playgrounds, campsites,
picnic areas, wetland areas,
a BMX course, skatepark, basketball courts, animal stalls/barns, softball and baseball fields and a pool.
Taskforce will lead planning
Elser’s suggestion of a taskforce got a lukewarm reception at first.
“Are we going to be putting together a group for something that’s going to happen in 20 years?” asked Debra McLaughlin, president of the Morgan County Soccer League.
“If we’re having this same discussion in four years, we’ll have screwed up big time,” said Elser.
He said the taskforce would create a plan with community input, and help launch funding efforts to start construction.
Grants Assistant Carol York asked how long the taskforce could expect to function.
Elser said their work would be done when funding was secured and construction of recreation facilities had begun.
The first meeting of the taskforce was set for Thursday, March 22 at 6 p.m. in the County Commission room of the Morgan County Courthouse. Everyone interested in the soccer and recreation complex is encouraged to attend.