Editorial: Projects add important green space for region
As cities and towns evolve, it is easy to lose sight of the importance of green spaces.
Growth and development typically mean new construction, renovation and infrastructure, and without question, communities need to work hard to build and rebuild.
But city planners also stress that expanding parks and green spaces offers many benefits -- from providing recreation opportunities to sustaining the environment. Fortunately, Huntington has some good things happening on that front.
This week, plans were revealed for a new Southside park on the site of the old Miller Elementary School, which was demolished 2011. The Huntington Park and Recreation District bought the property from the Cabell County Board of Education for $100,000 in June, thanks to a gift from Jim St. Clair and his son, Sam St. Clair.
Now, another community leader, Sterling Hall, and the Southside Neighborhood Association are spearheading an effort to turn the property into a green space and park. Most of the block-size area at 12th Avenue and 7th Street would be used for youth sports teams and the community, but they also have plans to use a smaller portion of the lot as a tree-lined park dedicated to the victims of last month's Newtown, Conn., shooting.
A design plan created by Edward Tucker Architects would plant six large trees along 7th Street to honor the teachers and administrators killed at Sandy Hook Elementary and 20 dogwoods around a courtyard to remember the children. It will be called Miller Elementary Memorial Park, and the entrance would incorporate a sign from the old school building.
On the east end, the Park District is planning a new park and playground on part of the site of the recently demolished Veterans Memorial Field House. Most of that property is, of course, being used for Marshall University's new soccer stadium complex, but a smaller parcel will be used for the park. Plans were unveiled this week, showing a patriotic-themed playground, picnic shelter and picnic tables that will be a great addition for the many residential streets nearby.
Those new projects come on the heels of other encouraging green space projects, large and not so large. Construction will begin this year on the first phases of the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health (PATH), a planned 64-mile trail system that will run throughout the county. New trails will be built in the West End, Guyandotte and Harveytown areas to help connect existing parks and trails for the project.
Last fall, the Forest Hills Neighborhood Association and the Walnut Hills Action Team worked together to build a neighborhood park along Norway Avenue on the old Gallaher Elementary School site in front of the Cabell County 911 Center. This was another example of a grass-roots, volunteer effort to add attractive green spaces that serve and improve the surrounding neighborhoods. The growing city land bank system could provide other neighborhoods the chance to do the same.
Together, all these projects represent a big step toward a better "green infrastructure" and higher quality of life for the city and the Tri-State.