By MATTHEW UMSTEAD
6:35 PM EDT, March 18, 2012
Budgets are tight, but badly needed improvements proposed at Ambrose Park in Martinsburg are still possible thanks to federal funding available through the City of Martinsburg’s Community Development Block Grant program.
The proposed project includes replacement of the four-acre park’s pavilion, which is missing a section of roof, renovation of bathrooms, an additional playground area and improved access to the green space along Mall Drive and Porter Avenue for the disabled.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, ultimately must agree that the city’s proposal to allocate $160,390 for the park improvements meets CDBG guidelines, according to Patricia E. “Pat” McMillan, the city’s CDBG program administrator. The grant program is to benefit low- and moderate-income residents.
The proposed allocation, which is part of the annual draft plan for the city’s CDBG program, is only one of two capital-improvement projects proposed in the 2012 fiscal year. The other proposal is a $2,300 request for security cameras and monitors at the Bethany House, a Martinsburg shelter for women and children. A public hearing is scheduled for April 12 to receive comments about the city’s draft plan.
While 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, McMillan is quick to note the improvements would have a direct impact on about 150 households at Ambrose Towers and Horatio Gates Village, low-income public housing developments that are next to the park along Porter Avenue.
If the project is approved by HUD, the funding requested by Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation Board would not be made available until August or September, McMillan said.
Aside from the renovations and new recreation equipment, Parks & Recreation Board Executive Director R. Stephen “Steve” Catlett said he also would like to add a parking area that is more accessible from Mall Drive. The current parking area is at the end of Linden Lane off West Addition Street, but directions to it from Porter Avenue or Mall Drive are not clear.
Tracey Smith, who was in the park last week with her boyfriend, Edward Jefferson, said she would like to see the addition of a walking trail at the park.
“I think that would be cool ... something for older people,” Smith said while she and Jefferson were sitting on swings talking.
The couple had just walked from the nearby Martinsburg Mall and Smith said they might have kept on walking around in the park if it had a trail. Jefferson said a park near his home in Maryland had a walking trail with exercise stations along the way. Smith, of Martinsburg, also suggested the addition of a gazebo.
While the Ambrose Park project is pending, McMillan said 2011 CDBG projects continue to move forward.
They include stormwater improvements along South Valley Street and replacement of gym windows as part of energy-efficiency improvements at the Boys & Girls Club in Martinsburg.
McMillan said the city’s CDBG funding was cut by about 30 percent from the 2011 to the 2012 program year.
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