By LUKE CREASY
FORT GAY - The historic Lock Masters House at the Big Sandy Lock and Dam #3 in Fort Gay is one step closer to being transformed into a community resource center after the town secured local grant money needed to begin the project's first phase.
Economic Redevelopment Specialist Raymond Moeller presented a FOCUS WV Brownfields Grant check to Fort Gay Mayor Joetta Hatfield, council members, and a representative from the National Coal Heritage Area Authority during the regular meeting of Town Council on Aug. 6.
"On behalf of the Town of Fort Gay, I'll say that we're thrilled to accept anything that will help our town," Hatfield said. "We're very pleased."
The FOCUS WV Brownfields program is designed to help communities create a redevelopment vision for brownfield properties of strategic community interest.The money received through the grant will allow the town to begin developing the old Lock House into a historical site.
Construction of the dam was completed on New Year's Day of 1897 but was abandoned in 1925. It is now owned by the Town of Fort Gay. This project involves a Phase 1 Environmental Assessment of the lock house and development of a reuse strategy to turn the historic structure into an asset for the community.
In the present day, the locks are used mainly by anglers who take advantage of turbulent waters that attract a variety of fish below the dam. While it's not uncommon to see a fisherman or two perched on the concrete pads once used by steamboats to push coal barges through the narrow locks, Hatfield said she wants to see the site attract even more, becoming a centerpiece for the town to grow on.
The long-term plans for the site include a public river walk near the locks and the transformation of the lock house into a dual-purpose facility which will serve as a welcome center and community museum with the over-arching goal that the area will become a highly trafficked area for anglers all over the region.
While the grant money cannot specifically be used for construction purposes, it will go toward testing to make sure the land is suitable for re-purposing. Hatfield said the town is still searching for additional funding to help the vision for the property move forward.