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First phase of East End park is underway

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If the weather holds and contractors don't run into unexpected problems, East End residents should be able to take their kids to their new neighborhood park in another month or so.

About 10 workers from McClanahan Construction Co., in Poca, have been onsite each day for about two months, so the East End Community Park, off Dixie Street, is finally taking shape.

"We hope to have this phase finished by the end of June," said David Gilmore, landscape architecture group manager for GAI Consultants, the park's designers.

Because of budget constraints, the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority is building the park in stages. Phase one includes a dramatic arched entrance, a paved path leading back to a metal-roofed shade structure, benches and planters, niches for future sculpture or other public art, a decorative fence along the front and, hopefully, a walking path that meanders around the large open grassy field in the rear.

Still on the drawing board awaiting funding are amenities neighbors requested at public meetings in the mid-2000s -- a "sprayground" water feature and a skate park.

CURA started buying property for the two-acre park in 2008 -- six parcels in all, including five homes that had been divided into apartments. At least one residence was a known haven for drug dealers, so city officials were glad to see it torn down.

Like most projects, there were some snags along the way. Questions about contaminated soil pushed back the start of construction last summer, and again last winter, while the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection took soil samples and plotted a remediation plan.

Those questions may delay the proposed walking path, CURA Director Jim Edwards said; CURA board members asked the designers to include the path in phase one.

"We're trying to make that happen," he said. "The problem is that the path goes across soil that has contamination."

Previous soil tests showed traces of hydrocarbons in the rear of the site, along the railroad tracks that separate the park from Laidley Field. Depending on what the DEP decides, more soil may have to be removed.

The contractors also must relocate utility lines. Wooden poles still carry telephone or electric lines across the site. "We're still finalizing putting utilities underground," Edwards said.

The construction budget for phase one now tops $500,000 -- mostly CURA money plus a few grants and a private gift.

"It's around $505,000 for the contractor and soil and utilities, but generally it's staying within our budget."

Edwards conceded the park construction has taken longer than expected.

"The big difference is it's underway now. There's no stopping it now, and the contractor has incentive to finish and get out."

Reach Jim Balow at balow@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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