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EPA Brownfield Funds Secured for Projects in Wheeling, Moundsville, Paden City

This conceptual drawing shows the vision for Robrecht Riverfront Park at the mouth of Wheeling Creek along the Ohio River in downtown Wheeling. (File Photo)

WHEELING — Brownfield sites in the Upper Ohio Valley will receive funds to assist their revitalization, thanks to Environmental Protection Agency grant awards announced Wednesday for the state of West Virginia.

Seven Mountain State municipalities or agencies were named recipients of the 2021 EPA Brownfields Multipurpose Assessment and Cleanup Grant awards during a virtual conference held Wednesday afternoon.

Three of those award recipients — the city of Wheeling, Belomar Regional Council and the Paden City Development Authority — plan to use the funds to revitalize Rust Belt sites in the Upper Ohio Valley.

“Many communities that are under economic stress — particularly areas that have experienced long periods of disinvestment and decay — lack the resources needed to initiate brownfield assessment and cleanup projects,” Diana Esher, acting regional administrator for the EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region, said, noting that $2.9 million in EPA Brownfields cleanup funding is being distributed to the seven West Virginia communities.

“Grants awarded by the EPA Brownfields program provide communities across the country with an opportunity to transform contaminated sites into community assets that attract jobs and achieve broader economic development outcomes while taking advantage of existing infrastructure.”

A $360,000 grant was awarded to the city of Wheeling to help clean up the 3-acre Robrecht riverfront property located downtown. This site at the mouth of Wheeling Creek along the Ohio River was a former railroad right of way dating back to the mid-1800s. The site along Main Street once included the Robrecht Grocery store, which is adjacent to the Celeron Plaza and other commercial sites that have been revitalized in recent years.

Since the 1970s when railroad operations ceased in the downtown, however, the Robrecht property has fallen into deterioration.

Preliminary plans for the Robrecht Riverfront Park include installation of pedestrian trail facilities and connections to Wheeling’s Heritage Trail, new landscaping and a paved parking lot, a ramp to the river with a kayak and canoe launch, boardwalks over the creek and 10-foot-wide trails along the creek’s bank.

“Because it’s in the floodplain, it’s been a difficult site to put back into productive use,” Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott said of the Robrecht property. “This is really a great opportunity to clean up this site and convert it into a great facility for outdoor recreation use.”

Last fall, Gov. Jim Justice announced a $240,864 grant for the park project through the state’s Transportation Alternatives and Recreational Trails Program. Once developed, the Robrecht Riverfront Park is expected to be a major trailhead for Heritage Trail, complete with outdoor recreation opportunities and areas eyed for public art displays.

City officials have noted that development of the site is expected to cost around $1 million, and additional funding is being sought to help bring the park to fruition once remediation and design work is completed.

A $600,000 assessment grant to Belomar Regional Council will be used for targeted areas in the valley. Among properties under consideration for revitalization is the former Fostoria Glass plant site in Moundsville. No buildings remain at the 8-acre site, but the soil on this land is in need of remediation because of the extensive glass manufacturing operation that occurred there. There has been a renewed interest in residential development at the site, which will require further environmental assessment, officials said.

Several brownfield areas throughout the four-county region served by Belomar — including Ohio, Marshall and Wetzel counties in West Virginia, as well as Belmont County in Ohio — have been identified through the agency’s program, which got a $200,000 boost in 2019 from an EPA Brownfield Assessment and Cleanup Grant allocations. A number of areas in the Wheeling area — the largest metro area served by Belomar — are eyed for assessment and future cleanup.

“We still have many properties on our brownfield inventory, so this new grant will definitely be put to good use,” Natalie Hamilton of Belomar Regional Counsel said, noting that about 90 percent of the prior grant has already been used on local brownfield properties throughout the area.

A $500,000 cleanup grant to the Paden City Development Authority — its first ever EPA Brownfield grant — has been awarded to clean up the Paden City Industrial Park. The target site for the funding is the 8.6 acres property formerly occupied by the Paden City Pottery and Corning Glass Works Companies, which manufactured dinnerware for more than 75 years.

“The cleanup site selected for the last century was a mecca for employment opportunities for the citizens of Paden City and the surrounding communities,” said Jim Bowen of the PCDA. “This grant will help us revitalize the site and restore the community to what it was, and even make it better. That’s our goal.”

The PCDA also plans to use grant funds to support community outreach activities and perform a workforce skills assessment for the Paden City Industrial Park site.

Other grant recipients in the state included the Bluefield West Virginia Economic Development Authority, the Boone County Community Development Corporation, Kanawha County Commission and Region 4 Planning and Development Council.

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