If pollution, or even the perception of pollution, prevents a certain area from being useful, either to its owner or to a community in general, then that area is considered a brownfield. Brownfields are both liabilities and assets. They are liabilities because of the risk that a toxic substance may cause some harm and they are assets because a landowner or a community should be able to use that land for some productive activity. The Brownfields program in the Environmental Protection Agency is designed to decrease the liabilities associated with Brownfields so that landowners and communities can take advantage of the assets. The program helps by funding environmental assessments: a careful study completed by an experienced environmental professional identifying which pollution problems are actually present and which are only feared. Then, once the real pollution problems are solved, the land can be used productively without fear.
In our view, much of the Deckers Creek corridor, especially in Morgantown, is a brownfield. If Deckers Creek were not polluted, then the land along the creek would be incredibly valuable. Individuals and families would pay top-dollar for residences close to the fishing or swimming that the creek would offer. Businesses along the creek could find various ways to take advantage of the clean water. For example, cafes could offer scenic, creekside seating.
A Brownfield Assessment Grant to Monongalia County, with FODC as the subgrantee, is supporting restoration of the creek and economic revitalization of the corridor. One of the activities it is supporting is an inventory of all the environmental issues in areas near the creek, and a report about the economic potential of those parcels once the creek is clean. FODC completed a preliminary assessment of the benefits of restoring Deckers Creek.
The Brownfield Assessment Grant is also supporting environmental assessments of abandoned mines in the Deckers Creek watershed. These assessments examine the lands where mining took place, and document whether they contain any hazardous materials or pollution liabilities. If they do, the assessments can include the research and monitoring necessary to clean up those problems. FODC received assistance in securing the Brownfield Assessment Grant from the Northern West Virginia Brownfield Assistance Center (NWVBAC) at WVU.
Through the NWVBAC, FODC also received support to work with the Town of Reedsville and a group of stakeholders. The Reedsville Revitalization Group has agreed that the Reedsville intersection could be a fantastic resource for the community and is producing a redevelopment vision with productive businesses in attractive facilities with public greenspace and walking paths.
Watershed Land Use
A watershed is not just comprised of the rivers and streams that flow through it; it is also comprised of the communities and land that lies within its topographic boundary. Recently, FODC has received funding to work on a few land use projects including the development of a greenspace outdoor learning park and the designing of a community revitalization project.
Outdoor Learning Park:
Located adjacent to Deckers Creek and the Rail-Trail, The Sabraton Outdoor Learning Park (OLP) is an inclusive greenspace that engages users in meaningful educational opportunities and unique passive recreational experiences. The OLP includes an outdoor classroom pavilion, community mosaic mural, walking trails, seating, native gardens and plants, public art created by local youth, and interpretive signs.
Future plans for the OLP include the design and installation of a bio-swale behind Kroger to catch stormwater runoff from the Kroger roof, other community art installations, and workshops in the outdoor classroom.
FODC is currently working with the Reedsville Restoration Group to develop a community-based vision for downtown Reedsville, including the possibilities for alternative roadways, public greenspace, safe pedestrian links, and the redevelopment of a former service station. The major goals of the project, as outlined by residents in the working group, are creating a safe, prosperous, inclusive community with an attractive look and feel. This planning process breathes life into the dreams Reedsville residents envision for a viable successful community. The development of this plan will be an opportunity for them to market their ideas to funding sources and businesses. FODC is honored to be a part of this project and we look forward to the bright future for downtown Reedsville.
FODC is currently seeking funding to install a community garden along the Deckers Creek Rail-Trail at the mouth of Deckers Creek, in Morgantown. The proposed community garden is ideally situated for the largest community impact and benefit. The community garden will be used to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables available, teach innovative gardening techniques such as the importance of harvesting rainwater, help reduce food budget costs, and serve as an interactive educational community greenspace for Morgantown residents of all ages and abilities.
Sabraton Kroger Bio-swale
Currently FODC is working with WVU Landscape Architecture students and the Morgantown Utility Board to design and implement a bio-swale behind the Sabraton Kroger. The lower portion of the Deckers Creek watershed is highly urbanized and faces many challenges; including poor land use planning that has caused excessive flooding from floodplain development, elevated levels of bacteria following significant rain events from combined sewer overflows, and loss of community value. Stormwater currently generated from the 56,300 sq. ft. grocery store will be directed to the bio-swale and will be treated for water quantity and quality through infiltration, dissipation, and bio-filtration from the native plants. In addition, the location of the bio-swale near the OLC and the public Deckers Creek Rail-Trail serves as an ideal place to provide educational opportunities to the general public, engineers, developers, and contractors.