A public park project in Accomack County is behind schedule, which could put the county at risk of losing grant funding, officials said.
Completion of the first phase of development of Central Park, located at an abandoned industrial site on Joynes Neck Road in the town of Accomac, is required according to the county’s agreement with the federal government.
The first phase includes a baseball field, walking trails, an access road, parking and stormwater facilities.
It was initially thought the park would be ready to open by fall 2016, but delays resulted after large piles of debris and other remnants of the property's industrial use in the past were found there.
BACKGROUND: Accomack's Central Park to open by fall
The Accomack County Board of Supervisors in August 2014 approved a master plan for the park, which was a requirement of the federal government as a substitute for parkland at Wallops Research Park that had been given by the federal government to the county in the 1970s for recreational use. When the research park was being developed, another site for a park had to be found to satisfy the federal requirement.
Funding for the first phase of park improvements, estimated to cost $365,000, came from a bond issue for the research park, according to Bill Remington of Davis, Bowen and Friedel, Inc., who presented the master plan to the board in 2014.
Obstacles to progress on the project have included derelict structures, large piles of debris, exposed concrete pads and abandoned equipment on the site, along with elevation changes throughout the property, County Administrator Mike Mason told the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday.
"There's basically a five-foot elevation drop" in the area where the master plan calls for a ballfield, he said.
Mason showed board members an aerial photograph of the property, pointing out "a gigantic pile of concrete" on the property and other debris.
With a significant amount of work remaining before the park can be opened to the public and only $83,000 remaining in the park budget, additional funds likely will be needed to complete the project.
"There will be some board actions needed," Mason said.
The lowest bids for construction of concession stand and restrooms is $82,000, and a septic system will cost about $16,000, in addition to the county's share of a maximum of $35,000 for playground equipment and the cost of clearing the property of hazards and fixing the elevation changes.
"There is a lot of remaining work that needs to be done before the park is opened," Mason said.
A project team was named in early March to manage the park’s development going forward.
The team includes Mason, the director of solid waste, the county procurement and contracts manager, Department of Parks and Recreation Manager Wayne Burton and a member of the Parks and Recreation advisory committee.
The team visited the site March 14 and found a number of public safety hazards, and then contacted the county’s insurer.
The Accomack County Department of Public Works began working to clear hazards at the site in mid-March, with the work being done on weekends.
The insurer inspected the property March 24 and made recommendations about remediating hazards found there.
Mason wrote to the Department of Conservation and Recreation in late March requesting an extension of the deadline to fulfill the terms of a $35,000 grant the department awarded the county to purchase playground equipment at the park, and a meeting was held April 4 with an engineer to begin developing specifications for the necessary cleanup, demolition, grading and relocation of fencing.
The Board of Supervisors is to receive bids on several aspects of the project in May, including the septic system, hazard removal, construction of a concession stand and restrooms, baseball field leveling, construction of a walking trail and playground site preparation.
On Twitter @cvvaughnESN