A Vision of Revitalization in Huntington
by Mark Ferrell
Steve Williams grew up in the bustling little city of Huntington, West Virginia. He swells with pride at any opportunity to tell visitors about the architectural treasures of the downtown historical district. Or about the pastoral green spaces of Ritter Park and its labyrinths of walking and cycling trails that cross stone foot bridges and traverse gorgeously manicured gardens. Or the busy campus of Marshall University, his alma mater, that anchors an urban cityscape uncommon in such a rural area of Appalachia.
But the once-prosperous river city has in recent years struggled with the difficult economic challenges facing many Appalachian communities: a decline in heavy manufacturing, a downturn in the coal industry, poverty, and blight.
Williams, who attended the local schools and became involved in area civic groups, is now Mayor Williams. He knows that the city has potential; now all it needs are opportunities. Meeting with various citizens and community groups, business leaders, and government agencies, Mayor Williams’ vision for Huntington’s future is coming into sharper focus. The city can’t do it alone, though, and is looking to partners, including the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies, to help turn the vision into reality.
Huntington’s city leaders began applying for revitalization grants to support their vision for the city. EPA awarded Huntington a Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Grant to help get the ball rolling in the Highlawn neighborhood. The city also qualified for EPA Brownfields Assessment Grants to help characterize the waterfront and abandoned manufacturing sites.
As momentum continued to build, so did the strength of the partnership between EPA and the city. EPA identified Huntington as a location where coordinated work across EPA and other federal, state, and local agencies could. By knitting together the resources of the agencies and understanding local needs, there’s a tremendous opportunity to provide meaningful support to this community, and others like it.
On December 8, EPA co-hosted a Revitalization Forum with the City of Huntington. Mayor Williams and EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin led discussions with more than 100 stakeholders with the common goal of fostering new collaborations between government agencies and the city in order to realize Huntington’s vision. Water issues were front and center, with presentations and break-out sessions that delved into green infrastructure and stormwater management. Attendees also discussed the potential revitalization opportunities of streets and trails, and connecting business and residential areas with green spaces and recreational amenities.
The one-day forum was a very productive step toward achieving a healthier, more prosperous Huntington.
About the author: Mark Ferrell has been with EPA since 2012 as a state and congressional liaison with EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region. In his free time, he enjoys hiking with his dogs, poking around at campfires and learning about wildlife habitat.
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