A wide walkway in the new East End Community Park leads from the Dixie Street entrance to a shade structure (center), with benches and planter beds along the way. The park should open later this year.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Now that the first phase of the East End Community Park is nearly finished, Jim Edwards hopes to build a walking track around its perimeter, too.
"What we're hoping to do is take advantage of the fact the contractor is still on the site, cleaning up loose ends," said Edwards, director of the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority.
Edwards plans to ask CURA board members this morning to spend some extra money to build the track as part of what he calls "Phase 1A" of the East End Community Park. CURA has already provided most of the money to buy property along Dixie and Nancy streets, and to design and begin to build the long-awaited neighborhood park.
A visit to the site Tuesday showed that contractor McClanahan Construction has installed most of the "hardscape." It includes a wide walk that leads from the main entrance off Dixie Street, beneath an arched sign, to a semi-circular shade space that can serve as a stage for outdoor performances.
In between there are raised planters, concrete benches, black pole lamps and landscaped beds with pre-poured pads made for future sculptures.
The rest of the park, including the large open space in the rear formerly known as "Hobo Jungle," looks decidedly shabby by comparison. Tall weeds, straggly trees, uneven ground, piles of dirt, old telephone poles, stacks of wooden pallets and other construction debris litter the site.
The contractors are using a space to the left of the entrance -- the future site of a planned sprayground and skate park -- as a staging area for their equipment and construction trailer.
Everything will be fixed before the park's opening later this year, Edwards said.
"They're working on some drainage issues that they need to do before final landscaping," he said. "All that needs to be neatened up. It's just a question of when. If we're able to give them the go-ahead on the Stage 1a trail, they will continue to use that as their staging area.
"The primary issue [for the trail] is how much soil has to be brought in to deal with the contamination on the back end of the site."
Previous soil tests have shown several pockets of soil, mainly nearly the railroad tracks at the rear, are contaminated with hydrocarbons that may have leaked from the tracks. Rather than remove or neutralize the soil, engineers plan to cover it up, Edwards said.
"We've talked with the city manager and the city engineer," he said. "The city may be able to supply soil and labor. That will reduce our cash contribution."
The running path could be built in a month or two, Edwards estimated. "It's going to be a real fine gravel, not concrete or blacktop. They lay a metal edge on both sides and backfill with gravel. It's not very time-consuming.
If CURA board members agree to build the path, the contractors will also install a visual barrier along the railroad tracks.
"The area between the path and the railroad will be bermed and planted with trees."
The remaining open space will be drained, graded and landscaped, Edwards said.
Reach Jim Balow at email@example.com or 304-348-5102.