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City Council accepts land to expand Fort Hill park

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston City council members accepted eight acres of land Monday night that will allow them to expand a Fort Hill park to include walking and biking trails.

Councilman Tom Lane, chair of the Charleston Land Trust, said he and his colleagues worked about three years trying to secure the property adjacent to Danner Meadows Park in Fort Hill.

The land runs adjacent to Dabney Drive and along Gordon Road in Fort Hill. A small trail on the property connects a small, unnamed road to MacCorkle Avenue.

It's owned by the Lawson Hamilton estate and was to be sold to the city for $40,000 a few years ago, but that deal fell through.

Lane said the Hamilton family eventually decided to donate the property after the persistence of Bill Mills, a landscaper and Charleston Land Trust member.

They were convinced when they saw the work that Mills and other Land Trust members had put into remodeling the Carriage Trail near Bridge Road earlier this year, he said.

"This property has been one of our goals and missions of the Charleston Land Trust," Lane said. "I'm glad this marks another instance of when you set a goal to do something, it all works out."

The donated property already has several makeshift trails that could eventually link with trails in Danner Meadows Park, Mills said. He's already raised about $10,000 from private citizens and businesses.

"There is a lot of people involved with the Land Trust who want this project to be successful," Mills said.

There is still a sewer line on the property and developers would need to build a bridge in one section of the trail, he said. Other than that it is in pretty good shape, he said.

Lane said the property would not present the city with any liability and parking would be available at already existing spaces at the park.

The project should be completed by summer 2013, he said.

Also during the meeting, Mayor Danny Jones discussed his involvement with the state Municipal League, whose members are advocating that lawmakers stick with the "home rule" pilot program. That program was applauded by a report from the Performance Evaluation and Research Division last week, the Associated Press reported.

West Virginia has a highly centralized government and limits the taxing authority and other powers of cities, towns and villages. The legislative audit found cities that experimented with increased powers during the five-year program successfully tackled blight, simplified business licensing and strengthened their finances.

The league members are asking the Legislature to extend the pilot program another five years and keep its four participants -- Charleston, Huntington, Wheeling and Bridgeport -- while allowing four more to join, according to the AP.

Jones said some lawmakers are reluctant to give cities more power because they represent more rural areas.

"They are not as city-oriented but that doesn't make them wrong," Jones said. "It just means they're different."

He said he's confident the program would not be done away with. He and other Municipal League members are working with conservatives in the state Legislature to get the program expanded another five years.

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.


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