Future recreation fields still
by Jazz Clark
Brownfield Northern WV has stepped up to the plate in helping county officials plan cleanup of the U.S. 522 soccer fields and creation of a recreation complex on 16 acres of public land across from the fields.
The group awarded Morgan County a $5,000 grant earlier this year. Brownfield experts specialize in rehabilitating former industrial sites for new uses.
Working with the Morgan County Commission Recreational Task Force, the West Virginia University-based group hopes to have the recreation complex project completed by Spring 2014.
The soccer field along the eastern side of U.S. 522 has been shut to public use for two years, due to concerns about debris embedded in the field.
The agenda for now is environmental cleanup. The cleanup itself is planned for October 2013, officials said at a meeting on Thursday, March 22.
“In Phase 1, the environmental consultants basically went through the history of the site and tried to figure out everything the site was ever used for,” said Brownfield Project Manager Luke Elser.
“They produced a very detailed 156-page report that gave us an idea of what the problems are and what we need to do,” he said.
Potential lead contaminants from a former apple orchard on the property and debris and waste from a former vehicle shop are causes for environmental concern, said Elser.
So far environmental officials have no concrete evidence to prove reports of hazardous leftover materials from a furniture finishing shop polluting the well on the property, said Elser.
“We’ve had conflicting reports from people about underground storage tanks, which isn’t surprising,” said Jeff Mitchell from TRIAD Engineering, who is conducting the environmental surveys.
“I don’t know if it’s a misunderstanding about the drinking water, but it’s very spotty as to how many tanks are currently on the site,” Mitchell said.
Current testing methodologies could fix that issue.
“Using ground-penetrating sonar, consultants can find any empty spaces in the ground and then characterize exactly what’s at that spot. It’s pretty amazing,” Elser said.
The last thing they want to do is just start digging and hope for the best.
The task force is now seeking funding from an upcoming Environmental Protection grant for $200,000 for cleanup costs. Though the grant is highly competitive, Elser said he is confident the grant could be received in May 2013.
Community members, input
Despite low turnout to the March 22 taskforce meeting, Elser said the key to success on a large project is getting the community motivated.
“What we need to do, both to have a successful project and a strong grant application is formalize a task force,” Elser said.
“We need a name, a set time to meet, a concrete goal based on community feedback, and each member to use their expertise,” he said.
The largest issue is keeping the community updated, because nothing sinks a project faster than misinformation, said Elser.
According to data gathered by the Brownfield group, adding recreational fields for soccer, softball, tennis and football are considered by the community to be the most important aspect of the new complex.
Community members also seem to be very interested in a new trail systems and a better multi-purpose structure, said Elser.
The task force plans to meet monthly from now on until the project ends, and start assigning duties to members immediately.
County officials will announce the time and date of the next meeting.