The Elizabeth J. 'Binky' Poundstone Riverwalk Trail / File photo

City council resubmits AML grant application to extend Riverwalk trail

BUCKHANNON – The City of Buckhannon is hoping that the third time’s a charm with its latest grant application to extend the Riverwalk trail system.

Buckhannon City Council at its Thursday, July 16 meeting agreed to revise and resubmit its AML grant application this year in hopes of expanding the Riverwalk trail system and supporting the Stockert Youth & Community Center expansion.

The city’s application requests funding for a three-phased extension to the Elizabeth J. “Binky” Poundstone Riverwalk Trail System as well as for SYCC’s expansion, which could be considered the trailhead. City officials want to expand the Riverwalk trail system from its ending near Marion Street south along Route 20, possibly connecting it to the Upshur Trails system and eventually Sago Road in the Hinkleville area.

The city applied for the AML Pilot program funding unsuccessfully in 2018 and 2019 but reviewed feedback from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection in hopes of submitting a successful application in 2020, municipal grant writer and information coordinator Callie Cronin Sams explained.

After speaking with the Department of Environmental Protection — the funding agency of the grant — Sams was advised that the previous grant application was not cited as ineligible and no red flags were apparent.

“However, I think in the last round they gave out about $25 million in funding, but they got requests for over $100 million in funding,” Sams told council via teleconference Thursday. “And on top of that, 80-85 percent of it at least goes to sewer or water projects, so the amount reserved for economic development and recreation and community development is very small, so it’s just a highly competitive grant program.”

Some additional feedback Sams received was to focus on recreation and tourism in the grant application.

“The other thought I had this time is reducing the length of the narrative because I have sat as a grant reviewer myself, and if you have that many grant applications to review, and you have a number of them that are 10-40 pages long, it puts a little more difficulty on them time wise,” she said. “So, I thought we could both reduce the length of the narrative and reduce the scope of the project as well, just to make it as concise and easy to digest as possible, and hopefully that’ll work in our favor.”

With the SYCC’s capital campaign having raised more than $400,000 to build a multi-purpose gymnasium/auditorium, and the AML grant being a matching grant, Sams was advised that the match was a “big plus” for the city.

“So, kudos to everyone who has worked on raising those funds for Stockert Youth, everyone that has been involved and all the contributors to that fundraising campaign. That has really been something that has caught their eye,” she said.

Mayor Robbie Skinner commended Sams on her drive to resubmit the grant application.

“I think we’ve got a good plan moving forward with this. I do think that more concise is better,” he said before asking for a motion to submit the application.

Council member CJ Rylands made the motion, which was seconded by councilwoman Pam Bucklew prior to passing unanimously.

According to the DEP’s website, the Office of Abandoned Mine Lands and Reclamation administers federal funding for economic development projects on abandoned mine lands through its AML Pilot program. It assists projects located on or adjacent to mine sites that ceased operations prior to the signing of the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act on Aug. 3, 1977.

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