WHEELING – A house full of interested parties gathered at West Virginia Northern Community College on Wednesday night to provide information on the Edible Mountain Coalition’s plan to create new outdoor recreational spaces in the heart of Wheeling’s more urban areas.
A proposed long-term masterplan for the effort goes well beyond the site of the reclaimed hillside mine. Proposals for future multi-million dollar urban redevelopment include everything from zip lining and other outdoor recreational facilities to orchards, a hillside funicular, exercise meadows, community gardens, a goat pasture and much more.
“These plans are incomplete and can change – and this is the time we need to hear what you don’t like as much as what you like,” said Gabe Hays, principal landscape architect at the Wallace Pancher Group.
“We want as much input from existing residents as possible,” said Glynis Board, placemaking lead for the Edible Mountain Coalition. “It’s not going to happen all at once. It will happen slowly. With the big picture, we are talking about US$ 60 million in investments. This is long term. This is not a short term project. But we are starting with $3.2 million at the old mine site.”
A primary focus of the effort coincides with Edible Mountain’s mission, which focuses on eliminating the health disparities experienced by Wheeling’s urban youth. The aim is to change city policies and environments by focusing on six key areas of health: fitness, food and nutrition, belonging, access to nature, creative play and artistic expression.
Recently, the Wheeling City Council voted to enter into a lease with Grow Ohio Valley Inc. to several city-owned parcels in the affected hillside area to accommodate the project.
“It’s an exciting time to be living in Wheeling,” said Jason Koegler, the new CEO of Grow Ohio Valley. “The Edible Mountain Coalition is paving the way for both health and leadership. And we’re doing it with the guidance of unique groups in our community – especially our youth. This city park initiative is a big step in the right direction for our county and our region.”
The proposed portion is designed to create safe, clean, and accessible green spaces in the community where residents and visitors can congregate. The effort is aimed at residents of these urban neighborhoods who, compared to the rest of the municipality, have limited access to natural green spaces.
Coalition members have held previous stakeholder meetings and even launched grassroots efforts to go door-to-door in affected neighborhoods to speak to individual residents to get direct input on what local people want and what they think is necessary.
“The Edible Mountain coalition worked with community members in East Wheeling and the community at large to build a smart, relevant and bold vision for the future of Vineyard Hill land,” Wheeling Ward 3 Councilor Rosemary Ketchum, Edible Director of Operations Mountain Coalition said. “This event will mark nearly three years of community engagement sessions that built that vision from the ground up.”
Ketchum noted that this ambitious effort is projected to have a tremendous impact on the community’s future, noting that it is vital that the community’s youth are involved in the process moving forward.
“Tonight is about capturing the stories, the ideas, the history, the experiences of this community so that we can build a public park – a city park – and environment that supports all of our missions, but most importantly supports the children who are here. and we can stay here, we hope,” said Ketchum.
Edible Mountain youth leader Siyan Lopez said the place-making initiative will give local children a place to be creative, explore and be physically active.
“By supporting a wellness coalition and shaping a healthy environment, we are creating a beautiful community for East Wheeling families to grow in,” said Lopez, noting that Edible Mountain helped support and motivate her to take on a role of leadership. in the future of your city.
Attendees at the Wednesday evening session were able to discuss concerns with coalition members and vote on elements of the proposed master plan, ranking their favorite parts of the plan. After the event, community input will be used to polish and publish a rendered version of the plan, the Board explained.
“This release will become a roadmap of ideas that can guide fundraising efforts to continue working to make downtown Wheeling and Ohio County a place where it’s fun and easy to be healthy,” the Council said.