Charles Town Mayor Peggy Smith announces Brownfield Revitalization Initiative to create nature parks from blighted areas for the community
Last week, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials for brownfield restoration and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection joined Charles Town Mayor Peggy Smith and other local leaders to cut the ribbon on a new nature park along Evitts Run Creek in the West End of the city. The new greenway is on a former manufactured gas plant site that had once been a contaminated brownfield.
Now the reclaimed nature park, “Perry Fields” has a new name and identity in honor of Roger and Wanda Perry and their family. The Perry family donated more than 20 acres of land on Evitts Run Creek and contributed significant funding toward this community restoration.
Perry Fields is just the first launch of a brownfield revitalization initiative that includes another site upstream. Charles Town Mayor Peggy Smith announced the next cleanup which will help pave the way for a 45-acre community park, a lake and a greenway.
“Our overall vision is to make Evitts Run a centerpiece of a major part of recreation and nature system for the whole community,” said Mayor Smith.
GZA GeoEnvironmental Senior Project Manager and Remedial Engineer, Dan Amate was in attendance and gave insight on the inner workings of converting a brownfield to a green space. The design provides for stormwater management by catching it and filtering it through an installed rain garden. The rain garden will remove pollutants and create space for more greenery and diverse native plant species at the site.
Joseph Foglio, Principal at GZA, said “one of the reasons we like to work on brownfields is because we can take a site that was in disarray or abandoned and turn it into something useful. The community gets involved and people really like to see something that was an eyesore turn into something nicer.”
Patrick Davis, EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Office of Land and Emergency Management, was on site for the ribbon cutting and addressed the gathering. He praised the community as a whole for its revitalization work. “Your efforts serve as a model for other communities to look at and see how EPA brownfields grants can help local revitalization projects from beginning to end, but I think this is just the beginning,” said Davis.
Charles Town City Planner Seth Rivard called the Evitts Run Park “one gem in the crown of planned projects,” referring to it as one piece of the overarching plan to create a more contiguous greenway that will greatly enhance the city of Charles Town.
One project that is partially underway is the transformation of a public works yard into a nature park. The city has already conducted preliminary engineering for the site.
“We decided to expand on the park aspect with the NFWF grant that will provide for the installation of the pond, a bridge crossing and some other amenities for this site,” said Rivard.
The project is a two-pronged effort. The park will offer residents open spaces and recreational enhancements. The pond will act as a sediment containment area to prevent urban runoff from collecting in nearby waterways, ultimately helping to restore fish habitat.
“A community is another product. You have to create a place where people want to be and live. I really believe in this corridor [of parks],” said Rivard.
The series of green spaces are creating an attractive amenity and have become an overarching theme in Charles Town. The brownfields revitalization initiative has been a catalyst for renewal in the community as a whole.
The Brownfield Revitalization Initiative will include Evitts Run Creek about 500 yards upstream of the Supertane site, a 12-acre brownfield now occupied by the community’s long-vacant former drinking water reservoir. Charles Town is launching a bold effort to create a major community park and recreational area.
This future park will include trails, a pedestrian bridge over Evitts Run Creek, the new “Branching In Native Nursery” greenhouse facility that will supply native trees and plants for area landscaping, and a large new community lake that will also double as a regional stormwater management facility. The city has already secured more than $1 million in funding for the project from both National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and the U.S. EPA according to Mayor Smith.