Berkeley Springs Northside work celebrated

“It’s been a long time coming”

by Trish Rudder

About 50 people attended the North Berkeley Rail Trail (NBRT) celebration on Friday, September 10 to applaud the remediation of the trailhead – cleanup of the contaminated land parcel north of the Berkeley Springs Train Depot.

The parcel of less than one-half acre had to be cleaned up to recreational standards and approved by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) before construction of the 2.2-mile trail can move forward.

The Town of Bath and the Morgan County Commission have been working together for years to bring life to the Northside of Berkeley Springs with the rail trail.

The Northside is the entrance to the town and county from Hancock, Maryland.

As part of the celebration, more than 400 forsythia cuttings were planted in a trench on the east side of the trail and can be seen from U.S. 522, the main thoroughfare through town.

More than 400 forsythia cuttings were planted last Friday in a trench north of the Berkeley Springs Train Depot and can be seen from U.S. 522.
photo by Rebecca MacLeod

The property was a former CSX rail yard, said Rail Trail task force member Rebecca MacLeod who organized the celebration.

She said the forsythia plantings became a 225-foot-long vegetative barrier between the trail and the land that is still contaminated.

Foxglove Garden Club president, Margaret Gordon said about 35 people planted the forsythia cuttings, 15 of which were Foxglove members.

“Today is a good day because we waited so long for this,” she said.

The wait has been a long one and that sentiment was echoed throughout the celebration.

Town of Bath Mayor Scott Merki said the completion of part of the trail’s remediation “has been a long time coming.”

The volunteers were also praised by the speakers. “If it wouldn’t be for the volunteers in this community, we would not be as far along as we are,” Merki said.

“I am very happy with our volunteers – the north end of Berkeley is going to pop,” he said.

John McCracken, who heads up the Berkeley Springs Train Depot committee for the town, has been working on the train depot renovations since 2007. He said West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who was the governor at the time, helped secure the CSX donation of the property to the town.

“It’s been a team effort,” he said.

Morgan County Commission president Joel Tuttle said the county has a great working relationship with the town.

“So many people worked on the project,” he said. He praised those who worked on it before he became a commissioner and those who work on the project now.

Former town committee co-chairs, Sally Marshall and Larry Lower volunteered their time to work on both the rail trail project and Streetscapes, Tuttle said, and are now led by MacLeod and Pete Brown.

Former county commissioner, Stacy Schultz, and former county administrator Jody McClintock spent time on the rail trail project and now current administrator Stefanie Allemong continues the work, he said.

“This project has been an exercise in patience,” Tuttle said.

The EPA provided the Town of Bath with a $100,000 brownfield’s cleanup grant that was used for this remediation.

In a September 10 news release, EPA’s mid-Atlantic acting regional administrator, Diana Esher said:  “Brownfields cleanups like this one breathe new life into communities by boosting local economies and enhancing the quality of life for the people who live, work and play there.”

“We applaud the Town of Bath and its partners for leveraging the necessary resources to turn what was once a contaminated eyesore into a community asset,” Esher said.

Bath continues going Green

Part of the celebration was to announce the award of a $30,000 design grant to the Town of Bath for a storm water management system on the Berkeley Springs Train Depot lot.

Sadie Drescher, Chesapeake Bay Trust restoration programs director, said the town was one of 32 entities that received grant funding from Chesapeake Bay Trust.

The Town of Bath is a “shining example of green infrastructure,” Drescher said.

She said the Chesapeake Bay Trust partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for the funding for this design that was awarded to the town.

The design will be for a collection and recirculation of storm runoff at the former brownfield site. It will feature the use of natural soil-building techniques and landscaping to create a stable ecosystem on the impervious urban lot.

Representatives from Senators Manchin and Capito and Congressman’s Mooney’s office spoke to the audience.

Chris Strovel of Sen. Capito’s office summed it up: “Berkeley Springs gets so much done with its volunteers.”

After a reception across the street at the Cacapon Mountain Brewing Company, the celebration continued with a walking tour of about 15 people led by MacLeod and Brown.

MacLeod said she wanted to show the latest green infrastructure on the town Streetscapes projects. Phase 4A was completed recently with the planter boxes on Washington Street filled with trees and plants.

The Congress Street rain gardens allow the green infrastructure to help control storm water runoff and shows the beauty of the rain garden plantings.

EPA’s Esher also said in its news release that “[T]he Town of Bath’s visionary approach to infrastructure should serve as a positive, sustainable example to cities and towns across the nation and around the world.”

“The community spirit shown by the Foxglove members and the volunteers made the day special. It’s clear that the government and agency folks were impressed by efforts to make Berkeley Springs green,” MacLeod said on Monday.