Ronceverte Considers Comprehensive Plan For Island Park

Island Park, paved roads, parades, and more were considered by the Ronceverte City Council during the Monday, December 13, meeting

A bigger future for Island Park was the reason for council to consider a comprehensive plan proposal from the Parks and Recreation Committee. The proposed plan began with Parks and Recreation member Dan Withrow after he had a few conversations with friends.

“I had a friend of ours call one day – she spends a lot of time walking on Island [Park]. She made a comment about all the potential the park has [and] said, ‘Danny, what can you do about it?’ I thought, ‘well I don’t know what [can I]?’ … In conjunction with the river, I don’t think there’s a small town this size in the state of West Virginia and other surrounding states that have a park with more potential than what we’re sitting on right here.”

Withrow then spoke with a familiar local face – White Sulphur Springs Mayor Bruce Bowling.

“I went to Bruce [and] he said, ‘Dan, when the city came up with a comprehensive plan for the town of White Sulphur, I thought it was a biggest waste of money and dumbest thing the city had ever done, but what I found out is when the people with deep pockets started rolling into [town], the first thing they asked me was do you have a comprehensive plan?’ And he said ‘without that comprehensive plan, I don’t think White Sulphur would be doing what it’s doing today.’ That’s where the idea of a comprehensive plan for Island Park came about, that’s how it kind of fell in my lap.”

From there, Withrow spoke with E.L. Robinson to prepare a way to create a comprehensive plan for Island Park. This led to the outline presented before City Council Monday night.

The proposal from E.L. Robinson Engineering explains the company “appreciates the opportunity to assist the city of Ronceverte and the Ronceverte parks and Recreation Commission with master planning and conceptual design of the outdoor recreation amenities in Ronceverte and submit the following comprehensive parks planning services proposal for your consideration. Our efforts will culminate with a ‘blueprint’ of the outdoor parks and reaction spaces in Ronceverte with associated budgetary cost opinions with phasing recommendations for the future growth and improvement of the recreation amenities.”

The proposal is broken down into sections, starting with the scope of the work. First, a site map would be prepared by E911 aerial mapping, Lidar mapping, and previously used maps. A “kick off” meeting with the Parks and Recreation Commission would set out a timeline. E.L. Robinson would assess the park site and adjoining properties for future reference.

Two public meetings would then be held in the city to discuss the project with residents. The first meeting would present the project itself and a master planning process would be explained. Then, a second meeting would allow for public comments into the final master plan.

Ultimately, the comprehensive plan would take about 120 days to complete.

The price of the plan is estimated around $25,600, but the city does not currently plan to pay for this itself.

“There’s grants out there,” Withrow said. “If we can’t get grant money, where there’s a will there’s a way. I’m a true optimist. I believe, there’s no doubt in my mind, that this is going to work. It’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to happen quick. But we can make this happen.”

After ample excited discussion, the council agreed to support the project, but did not promise any funds for the comprehensive plan.

“I think every penny of it spent would be more than worth the value of what we’ve got into it,” Withrow said. “My hope on the Comprehensive Plan side of it is that we get as much community involvement as we possibly can, we want this to be the people’s park. … I’m also on the committee of the New Events and Entertainment Committee, we just had a meeting, there’s really some exciting things going on. … I believe, without question in my mind, that if we develop this park to its greatest potential, it will change the face of Ronceverte for years to come. I just truly believe there’s unlimited potential in that park.”

In other business:

– City Administrator Pam Mentz noted that “our dog park has been surveyed! … We do have that survey, so right now we’re looking at some estimates for fencing to see who’s the cheapest. … We’re moving forward with it.”

– E.L. Robinson Engineer Bob Hazelwood explained where the water project currently stands – “We’ve got two contractors still working – Lynch Construction on the waterlines and Famco on the storage tanks and other related work. As of the end of our last pay cut off on November 26, both of them are actually right at 75 % complete. Right now, Lynch is working out on the west end of the town. … We got most of the paving done, just a few isolated spots here and there, before West Virginia Paving shut down the asphalt plant [for the winter], the Saturday right before Thanksgiving week.” The Brier Hill storage tank is expected to be in operations soon, possibly in January.

– Pack explained that the results of the paving after the water system upgrade have “ been very well received. I received Facebook messages from citizens telling me that they’ve been waiting their whole lives for their street to be paved and that they were so thankful. I don’t think she was joking at all. She was literally so thrilled that that road was paid.” Councilmember Kathy King also noted that “for so many years, the city would try to have enough money to pave one street each year. It got stretched out to where [for] several years, the money went for patch paving.”

– Former Ronceverte Mayor David Smith was approved to continue serving on the Board of Directors of the Mountain Transit Authority and was appointed to the Ronceverte Public Library Board of Trustees.

– A sewer cleaning, functioning like a giant vacuum, was approved for purchase, with funds coming primarily from the sewer system upgrade grant the city has been utilized for the sewer plant. Pack noted “it’s my understanding that previously when we needed something similar to this, we had to rent something at an exorbitant rate. … The thought process is also that as we look in the future, there may be other municipalities that might be interested in having us come with this equipment.”

– “We did have the [Ronceverte Christmas Parade] last Monday night,” Pack said. “Before the parade, the Ronceverte Ministerial Association had a tree lighting ceremony. There was an open house, there was a tree lighting, they were having chili and cookies and hot chocolate. I just don’t think enough people knew about it this year – I expected there to be a much larger turnout for that, but that was very nice. I was honored to speak before they did the tree lighting. … We did have a great turnout for the parade. I know my children have entirely too much candy leftover from the parade.”

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