West Virginia towns turn a contaminated gas plant & landfill site into waterfront paradise

Charles Town, West Virginia Councilman Michael Tolbert has a twist on a 1960s song by folk legend Joni Mitchell when he spoke on June 2, 2017 at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a public waterside nature park: “They unpaved a parking lot and turned it into paradise.”

The new park along Evitts Run Creek in Ranson‘s (Charles Town’s twin city) west end used to be the unsightly site of a former manufactured gas plant.

The vision of Evitts Run Park was to turn the Charles Town Public Works and Landfill, an operating but obsolete and contaminated public works facility located adjacent to Evitts Run Creek into a recreational area for all in the community to enjoy.

One of the primary legacies of Ranson’s industrial history is Evitts Run Creek, a 10.3 mile stream segment that is part of the Shenandoah-Jefferson watershed, which ultimately discharges into the Chesapeake Bay.

The creek runs though the heart of the corridor and is a key focal point for several initiatives including the Evitts Run Park Master Plan which includes:

  • Current Evitts Run Park
  • West Ranson Park
  • Ranson Civic Center
  • Charles Town Skate Park
  • Charles Town Public Works facility

The creek is currently listed on the West Virginia Category Five listing for stream impairment, and the EPA 303(d) listing for benthic macroinvertebrate population impairment.

Despite these listings, the creek is stocked by the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) with trout, and is potentially a food source for economically distressed residents.

Note from Storm: I served on an Urban Land Institute Advisory Service Panel for Ranson/Charles Town back when they were first envisioning a revitalization strategy. My primary advice to them was that they needed more water features, and that they should look into daylighting some of their many buried creeks. This new park is certainly a lovely new water feature.

In case you’re wondering about the relationship of Charles Town to Ranson, here’s a little background: The Charles Town Mining, Manufacturing, and Improvement Company played an instrumental role in creating Ranson. In 1890, the company bought 850 acres adjoining the western and northern corporate limits of Charles Town, and commissioned D.G. Howell, a civil engineer and architect, to lay out the town. The largest tract of land purchased was from the Ranson family. Ranson was officially incorporated in 1910, when residents—by a vote of 67-2—decided to form their own town. It was named in honor of Dr. James Ranson, a dentist and farmer living in the area.

Photo courtesy of City of Charles Town.

See Herald Mail article by Richard Belisle.

See Evitts Run Park website.

See Evitts Run Park master plan.

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