Sovern Run, a tributary to Big Sandy Creek in the Cheat River watershed, flows through the Valley Point community of Preston County, West Virginia. The Sovern Run and lower Cheat River watersheds are severely impaired by acid mine drainage (AMD) pollution from abandoned coal mines. Sovern Run is 4.7 miles in length and joins Big Sandy Creek just upstream of a popular recreation area (Figure 1).
An innovative program has matched University scholars with professionals from private industry and local governments to breathe new life into some neglected spaces in the Mountain State. At Extreme Makeover: Brownfields Edition on December 2, four West Virginia communities — Chester, Shinnston, Parkersburg, and Wheeling — were matched with a “dream team” of faculty members and other experts to create redevelopment plans for projects in their communities to be one of the four initial projects of the West Virginia Redevelopment Collaborative.
The West Virginia Redevelopment Collaborative is a new initiative of West Virginia University’s Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center, funded by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, designed to use a team approach to tackle obstacles involved in redeveloping brownfields. Brownfields are properties that sit undeveloped because of a variety of real or perceived environmental barriers.
MORGANTOWN — One of the many ways West Virginia University pursues its landgrant mission to help make lives better in the state is through an aggressive program called the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center, a project that helps communities revitalize blighted abandoned properties for new uses that lead to positive economic development. As communities across West Virginia strive to revitalize through broad development efforts, many are faced with abandoned and underutilized properties that impede the redevelopment of the community at large.
These abandoned properties, or “brownfields,” vary in size and historical usage, ranging from as small as an old gas station to as large as a multiacre former glass factory.
Many of these blighted properties are contaminated, causing potential investors and developers to be wary of purchasing and rehabilitating the properties. Instead, they choose to develop on previously undeveloped sites, or “greenfields.”