By MATTHEW UMSTEAD
7:53 PM EDT, October 11, 2012
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has approved a plan that would give a 4.3-acre park in Martinsburg a major facelift, but the release of HUD funding for a portion of the project is contingent upon final review, officials said Thursday.
Improvements eyed for Ambrose Park included improving access to the green space along Mall Drive and Porter Avenue for the disabled through sidewalk improvements and restroom renovations, pavilion replacement, and construction of a new playground area and Berkeley County’s first dog park.
The overhaul is expected to be paid for with state and federal funding and private donations, officials said Thursday.
The release of $160,390 in federal funding for the project through the city of Martinsburg’s Community Development Block Grant program is contingent upon completion of environmental assessment and historical reviews and opportunities for public comment, said Patricia E. “Pat” McMillan, the city’s CDBG program administrator.
McMillan said Thursday she received notification from the state Historic Preservation Office this week that they had no concerns about the federally funded portion of the improvements planned by the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation Board.
The recreation board, meanwhile, is about one step away from being able to access a $14,500 state Community Partnership Grant that is being eyed for the pavilion replacement, Berkeley County Administrator Deborah Hammond said.
The Berkeley County Council is scheduled to act next week on a state contract it received to help facilitate the grant, Hammond said.
Private donations are anticipated for construction of the dog park, said R. Stephen Catlett, executive director of the parks and recreation board.
Weather permitting and barring any hiccups in receiving the funding, Catlett said work could begin on various aspects of the project this fall.
“I think it’s going to be a tremendous change,” Catlett said. “There’s a lot of land there that’s not being utilized.”
The park’s current pavilion, which is missing a portion of the roof, has never been ADA-accessible, Catlett said.
The purpose of the city’s CDBG program is to benefit low- and moderate-income residents, and McMillan said there was some initial concern whether the park project would qualify for the federal funding.
The park does not appear to be in a U.S. Census-defined area where more than 51 percent of the population has low and moderate income according to city records, but is next to about 150 households at Ambrose Towers and Horatio Gates Village, low-income public housing developments that are next to the park along Porter Avenue.
Catlett said the proposed improvements for Ambrose Park make it the third park in Martinsburg to qualify for the federal funding through the city’s CDBG program.
Improvements at Martin Luther King Jr. Park and Leeland Playground, both along West Martin Street, previously have been made through the federal program, Catlett said.
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