BUCKHANNON – City officials hope Jawbone Park grows in popularity as a regional event center in north-central West Virginia, but as that happens, they want to ensure the grass in the centrally located park keeps growing, too.
On the heels of the city being tapped as the host of the 2023 World Association of Marching Show Bands Championships and as the prospect of West Virginia Strawberry Festival food vendors moving to Jawbone Park for the annual festival in May looms, Buckhannon Council at its first meeting in January voted to invest $10,000 in protecting the grass from being torn up.
The $10,000 will be used to buy about 6,100 square feet of permeable pavers designed to protect Jawbone Park’s grass from damage.
Damage could occur when, for example, vehicles and trailers associated with fairs, festivals and other large-scale events are set up on and around the concrete semi-circle in Jawbone Park.
At council’s Jan. 7 meeting, councilman CJ Rylands said that in anticipation of the 79th Annual Strawberry Festival erecting food vendors and performers in Jawbone Park in May, he’s been researching ways to prevent damage to the grass and park ground generally. Rylands said he discovered an interlocking turf-like grid system from a company called TRUEGRID.
“As we look forward to enhancing the capacity of Jawbone Park to become a regional event center that we can hold a variety of things at, and through our conversations with the Strawberry Festival and (first vice president) Gary Connell, this particular year we’re focusing on having all the food vendors and all the music and entertainment at Jawbone,” Rylands said.
According to a previous story, due to comprehensive street-and-sidewalk infrastructure repair needed on North Spring Street, the Strawberry Festival’s food vendors will be moved from their typical lot to Jawbone Park.
As of this week, the Strawberry Festival is still slated for May 9-16, 2021.
“One of the things we’ve come up against is, with trailers and vehicles working on grass is if the grass is wet, it tears it up and damages it for future events, and you have to plant grass,” Rylands explained, “so we researched different strategies for taking grass areas and make them able to be driven on without damage.”
Rylands said most of the grass-preservation systems require a complicated process involving removal of topsoil and laying in a layer of gravel.
“That doesn’t really work for Jawbone Park, so we found this particular company, TRUEGRID,” Rylands said. “It’s a grid system in two-by-two squares that interlock with each other. You lay them on top of wet soil and grass, and then you compact them down in. One edge is single-edge sharp edge that goes down, and the top has broader quarter-inch that’s tapered at top.”
TRUEGRID sells a system that involves installing permeable pavers at the surface of the soil and “choking the soil with a compost of sand, soil and grass seed,” Rylands said. “You choke it all out, and when you drive over it, it may compress a little bit, but it won’t form the furrows of the tires going through and damage the grass … it has traction and an irregular surface that keeps tires from spinning.”
Rylands suggested the city purchase 10 feet on either side of the concrete semi-circle along which the vendors will be set up and an additional 10 feet along the backside of the pavilions. He estimated the total cost at $10,000 based on his recommendation the city buy 6,100 square feet.
“I found in my research there’s no other [system] like this that you can do in existing grass that creates stabilization,” Rylands said.
“If it works, then we can expand that to other areas of the park or into the new section if we develop into the … Chase Bank [drive-thru] … area,” Rylands said. “We need to start building the improvements to this venue as we approach the event that Randy has brought to this town and continue to enhance our capabilities down there.”
Mayor Robbie Skinner said the $10,000 investment in permeable pavers would have far-reaching benefits.
“It goes beyond just Strawberry Festival,” he said. “Any event we would have down there, it creates more possibilities. It’s naturally a wet area, so if we can stabilize it better, it will allow us to have more versatility there. I think it’s a good investment on our part for our event space.”
After some discussion and a couple questions from councilman Jack Reger, city recorder Randy Sanders made a motion to approve the purchase, which was seconded by Reger before passing unanimously.
The mayor emphasized how important it was to move on making Jawbone more amenable to trailers and mobile food vendors, noting that construction on North Spring Street between its intersection with Main Street and the Whistle Stop Bar and Grill will take place when the weather improves.
“This year, should we have a Strawberry Festival, we have to move the vendors south of Main Street … so we really don’t have much of a choice this year,” Skinner said. “Because of our circumstances and our commitments that we’ve made to fixing the infrastructure on Spring Street, we have to relocate the entertainment and the food. I think we need to move on this and get these installed so we can prepare our park for the festival this year.”