Robrecht Riverfront Park Moving Toward Reality in Center Wheeling
WHEELING — An underutilized slice of property in Center Wheeling next to the Heritage Trail soon could serve as a new park that will include pedestrian and trail facilities, a new parking lot, a ramp to the river with a kayak and canoe launch, boardwalks over Wheeling Creek and 10-foot-wide trails along the creek’s banks.
Plans were unveiled this week for the development of a new downtown city park in Wheeling — the Robrecht Riverfront Park. City leaders are applying for additional funds to help bring the project to fruition.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday visited Wheeling to announce state funding allocations to several city projects, including the development of the Wheeling Robrecht Riverfront Park. A $240,864 grant was the largest chunk of funding being earmarked locally among four area projects receiving money through the state’s Transportation Alternatives and Recreational Trails Program.
The grants are funded through the Federal Highway Administration and are administered through the West Virginia Department of Transportation. They are intended to help towns and cities build and improve sidewalks, lighting, trails and other features.
Wheeling Robrecht Riverfront Park is being designed to occupy a city owned lot along the banks of the Ohio River just south of the mouth of Wheeling Creek. It is the site of the former Robrecht Grocery store property, and is adjacent to Main Street Bank, Celeron Plaza and commercial areas near Center Wheeling that have been revitalized in recent years.
“The city applied for this grant to help it transform a blighted, 3-acre brownfield into a riverfront park and trailhead for the Wheeling Heritage Trail,” Justice said during his stop in Wheeling. “This project will turn a blighted piece of property into a functional park for citizens and visitors.
“Because this property would provide a connection to the Wheeling Heritage Trail, its development would also mean economic benefits to the businesses in the nearby downtown and Center Wheeling districts.”
On Friday, Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron said the city also submitted a grant application to the state for additional federal funding through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Brownfield Cleanup Grant Program. The city is requesting an additional $359,000 through this grant program, and local matching funds in the amount of around $72,000 will be needed, the city manager noted.
“There is some contamination at the site from when there was a warehouse facility operating there,” Herron said. “We had been looking at different uses for that property, but there are brownfield and floodplain issues that do exist at that site.”
Initial figures show the overall project from start to finish will cost between $700,000 and $1 million.
The city manager noted that the site had initially been considered a potential location for The Health Plan of West Virginia’s Wheeling facility, but because of these issues, the Health Plan ended up locating its new headquarters in the heart of downtown.
Officials indicated it had been determined the best use for the riverfront property would be a public park and recreational facility, and this funding helps the proposed project take a big step forward. The grant will allow engineering to begin on the park project and to have final designs developed.
“This project is a big step in the right direction toward utilizing this property,” Herron said. “Not only will it be a valuable asset for our downtown, it will also contribute to our streetscape efforts coming up next year, and it will enact the mayor’s vision to connect our various trailheads throughout the city.”
Earlier this year, Justice announced the state’s $25 million commitment to the Wheeling Streetscape project, which will bring a total upgrade to the city’s downtown area with new street surfaces and curbs, lighting, sidewalks and more.
“We’re really on our way in West Virginia, and it’s just getting better and better,” Justice said. “Right now, Wheeling — and really all of West Virginia — is becoming a place that’s in demand, and pretty soon you’re not going to be able to stop it.”