CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- More than 20 years ago, family farms dotted the landscape of Teays Valley in Putnam County.
When one of the few remaining farms in the area was to be sold a couple of years ago, Scott Williamson, director of Putnam County Parks and Recreation, saw the opportunity to create a place for visitors to Hurricane's Valley Park where they could experience the rural roots of the county.
"I remember that this area used to be cow pastures and farms everywhere," Williamson said. "We wanted to keep it along the farm theme so that generations from now when people come here, they can see what Teays Valley was."
The land abutted the existing park and was eligible to become a Tax Increment Financing district, so the County Commission and the county parks and recreation board began the process of buying the land and developing it.
Two years and more than $2.25 million later, the 5.5 acres features a renovated metal barn and "one-room schoolhouse" picnic area, as well as outdoor public areas and an entryway to the park clearly visible from Teays Valley Road.
"It's the most popular park in the county and the most used, so any time we can add property to it and add offerings to the public, we'll do that," Williamson said. "We didn't want to turn it strictly into baseball fields, soccer fields -- that kind of thing. We wanted people to be able to have access to passive recreation as well -- somewhere they could sit, meditate, read or just have a picnic and enjoy their families."
The project was funded almost entirely through TIF, which allows agencies to sell bonds to pay for projects with the understanding that increased tax revenues -- once the projects are built -- will be used to pay off the bonds.