Future Field of Dreams Is Full of Weeds

Wheeling officials hope to break ground on the $3.3 million J.B. Chambers Recreation Park this month – but today, East Wheeling’s future field of dreams is overgrown with weeds.

The unsightly vegetation on the city-owned lots, several feet high in some spots, seems to run afoul of Wheeling’s own ordinance against out-of-control overgrowth. City code states no property owner “shall permit … any weeds, deleterious and unhealthful growth, or any noxious matter” to grow on any lot or sidewalk in the city. The law does not specify a minimum height that constitutes a violation.

But with City Council expected to award the contract to build the park to James White Construction of Weirton on Tuesday, Public Works Director Russell Jebbia said the city likely will let the contractor deal with the weeds. He cited safety concerns due to open foundations and the uneven nature of the property.

“It’s not something we can go in and mow with a tractor. … Somebody could get hurt,” he said.

City officials purchased dozens of houses on the block bounded by 15th, 16th, Wood and McColloch streets – including three using eminent domain – and demolished them to make way for the new park. A number of those properties were in deplorable condition, blighted by years of vacancy and neglect. But one East Wheeling resident, who asked not to be identified, said Wednesday those structures provided a more pleasant view than the overgrowth that’s since taken their place.

“The city was so embarrassed (about the houses) … that they tore them down and let the weeds grow. … You could hide Cox’s army in there and you’d never see them,” she said.

Jebbia said he had heard of no complaints from residents about the weeds. City Manager Robert Herron could not be reached for comment.

In addition to awarding the $2.08 million in construction contracts, council also will vote on legislation authorizing the city to borrow up to $1.15 million for the project, representing about one-third of the overall cost for the park. The city has received $1.25 million in private donations for the project that will be used to pay back the loan – but some of those contributions will be made in yearly installments, so the city needs the money now to begin construction.

Plans for the park include a lighted, artificial turf field suitable for football, soccer, lacrosse and softball.