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Environmental Protection Agency Conducts Assessment at Site of Future Wheeling Island Gateway Park Near Suspension Bridge

Photo by Alex Meyer Wheeling and U.S. EPA officials examine the future site of the Wheeling Island Gateway Park on Tuesday morning. The EPA and environmental consultants will conduct a Targeted Brownfields Assessment to determine if any contamination is present on the land.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials and environmental consultants visited the site of the planned Wheeling Island Gateway Park on Tuesday morning to start assessing the future park land.

Wheeling recently received a $10,000 grant from the EPA’s Brownfields program to perform a site assessment of the land, adjacent to the Wheeling Suspension Bridge along North Front Street. The grant and site assessment will help move along the process of creating the park, Parks and Recreation Director Jesse Mestrovic said.

“For us to do environmental assessment, this is one of those pieces of the puzzle,” Mestrovic said. “I’m looking forward to having this park here.”

Cosmo Servidio, administrator of the EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region, said he’s happy to work with Wheeling on the project, noting that he graduated from Wheeling Jesuit University and his wife is from the city.

“We’re excited to see this come to fruition and know it will,” Servidio said.

The EPA, working with consultants at the environmental firm TechLaw, began conducting a Targeted Brownfields Assessment at the park site Tuesday, which will determine if any contamination is present on the land. The purpose of the assessment is to “minimize the uncertainties” of actual or perceived contamination associated with a site, according to the EPA.

“To do a site assessment, it’s to make sure first and foremost it’s protecting the environment and human health, but then working with the community and their vision to see this now as a park,” Servidio said.

Techlaw and the EPA will look at historical records of the site as well as environmental data to determine if any environmental impacts are present, Consultant Doug Mayles said. He said the site may have housed fuel tanks and dealt with hazardous waste in the past, but so far it appears that everything was handled properly.

“We haven’t seen any red flags here,” Mayles said.

Mayles and TechLaw associate Loni Gibson performed an initial inspection of the site Tuesday, taking notes and photos of any potential environmental impacts.

Mayles added that TechLaw and the EPA hope to finish the site assessment by mid-April. The organizations will then provide a report to the city on what they found.

Plans for the Gateway Park, intended to celebrate the Suspension Bridge’s history, were announced by Wheeling on Feb. 20. The Fitzsimmons Family Foundation provided an initial $150,000 to jumpstart two out of the park’s six construction phases.

The cost of all six phases adds up to $1.6 million, and city officials previously maintained that no taxpayer dollars will fund the project. The next potential funding source for the project is a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant, Mestrovic said, and he plans to apply for that in the fall.

“To be here on Wheeling Island and now to know that the community will have an open space here and have access to it with their families and friends, it’s really what we want to see,” Servidio said.

Also on site Tuesday was Joe Touvell, a building code official and floodplain manager for Wheeling, who noted that he has personal ties to the project.

“I’m very happy and excited about this project. I literally grew up right here. That’s my house,” he said, pointing down North Front Street, “I know the history of the site. I know those structures.”

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