SELBYVILLE – The tar pit at the Upshur County Youth Camp has been transformed into a grassy field with an archery range and pavilions.
Assistant county administrator Tabatha Perry said the project came to fruition thanks to a $200,000 a EPA Brownfields Cleanup Grant.
“The Buckhannon Chemical Company operated on that property back in the day, from 1908 to 1935, and it produced charcoal, wood alcohol and calcium acetate using air-tight kilns or ovens,” Perry said. “They disposed of their byproduct, which was pine tar. When the company moved off the property, it was deeded over to the Upshur County Commission.”
In 1987, the EPA fenced off the area by putting a fabric material over the site, but it wasn’t maintained so vegetation grew through the fabric.
“The county obtained a FOCUS assessment grant through the West Virginia Brownfields Program several years ago, and Woody Martin, a local resident who was also a huge asset to the project, prepared a portion of the assessment, which was then used to apply for the EPA grant to clean it up,” Perry said.
The grant was obtained before Perry worked for the commission, and the clean-up was one of the first things on her agenda when she started.
“This was one of my first projects,” Perry said. “It was just 0.662 acres of the property that wasn’t used, and the county wanted to be able to use it as a recreational space or open green space.”
According to a summary of the project Perry prepared with the assistance of Lydia Work, Licensed Remediation Specialist, it was determined that solidifying the free-flowing pine tar using Portland cement, followed by covering the affected area with a permanent soil cover, would eliminate the exposure to the identified contaminants of concern present at the site and achieve a cost-effective goal protective of human health and the environment.
The result is a new green space for visitors to the youth camp to enjoy.
“It’s a green grassy area, but they also installed a backstop for an archery range and an open-air pavilion for everyone to enjoy,” Perry said.
The camp also recently received $10,000 grant from Weyerhaeuser for other repairs and improvements.
“We are going to put more metal roofs on cabins like we’ve been doing,” said Greg Woody, director of the Upshur County Youth Camp. “We’ve been trying to put new roofs on everything we can, and this summer we reroofed two of our large shower houses up on the bank, between the large cabins, and that was with Weyerhaeuser grant money that was given to us last year.”
Woody said they’re always working on improvements to the camp.
“I’m kind of limited on time as to when I can do the work, so I try to do it when I have extra help during the summer,” Woody said. “When camps go out, we try to jump right in, and this round of Weyerhaeuser money is also probably going to go toward new roofs.”