Putnam repairs rest stop derecho damage
HOMETOWN, W.Va. -- Parks and recreation officials in Putnam County had been working to make the Hometown roadside park a nice place to stop along W.Va. 62.
It was a nice place, parks and recreation director Scott Williamson said, much nicer than a few years ago, when it was an area that had become known for drug deals.
Then last summer's derecho struck. The severe windstorm dramatically hampered their efforts.
"It knocked us back about four steps," said Williamson, recalling the storm, which downed dozens of trees and crushed two picnic shelters at the park.
New grant money recently has been awarded to beautify the park, and Williamson said he's not giving up on making it something nice.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced this week that $65,600 from the Transportation Enhancement Program be used to install lighting, restrooms and decorative bollards at the park.
"I don't want anyone to think we're giving up on it," Williamson said. "We'll recover that park."
For now, though, more than a dozen tree stumps cover the grounds of the park. Picnic tables once protected by shelters are now vulnerable to weather.
The park was given FEMA assistance for the storm damage and Williamson is waiting to hear from the insurance company before he can make necessary repairs and then start on the upgrades the grant money will pay for.
"We've already cleaned up almost everything and planted six pin oak trees. We spread them out, we had a forester come out and do measurements so, when they grow full, it'll be a nice canopy for shade," he said.
Victorian-style imitation gaslights will be placed around the park to supply additional lighting, small, decorative red bollards to separate the grassy area from the parking lot will be set up and a concrete restroom that's tamper-proof will be installed.
"It's as destruction-resistant as you can get. It's the kind we have at Valley Park [in Hurricane] and that national parks use in areas where there aren't a lot of patrols -- it's vandal-resistant," Williamson said, noting that the last time the park had restrooms, someone set them on fire.
Williamson hopes people traveling W.Va. 62 might use the park to stop and rest and have lunch, and that children in the area will play on the equipment.
The park sits on historic land. A plaque notes that President George Washington surveyed it and stopped there prior to the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774. The park was built in the 1930s as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps developed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to put people to work during The Great Depression, according to Williamson.
The state Transportation Enhancement Grant Program is a federal-aid program of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration, according to a news release from Tomblin's office. The grant funds projects like the construction of sidewalks and trails, acquisition of scenic or historic sites, preserving historic resources and stimulating tourism development.
"Some people would say it's a waste of time and money," Williamson said, "but every time I drive by and see little kids playing or AEP workers having lunch -- that's what it's for."
Reach Kate White at email@example.com or 304-348-1723.