montgomery – On a cold, windy day with a few flurries, the community of Montgomery came together on Friday to baptize a project that should provide area residents with hours of fun as the weather turns nicer.
U.S. Representative Carol Miller, RW.Va., was among dignitaries who spoke at Friday’s ribbon cutting for The Pier at 6th and Adams, adjacent to the Montgomery General Hospital parking lot.
Also in attendance were Montgomery Mayor Greg Ingram, Smithers Mayor Dr. Anne Cavalier, Fayette County Commissioner John Brenemen, Kanawha County Commissioner Lance Wheeler, and other local leaders and legislative officials. and discussed the project.
“Today is a great day for Montgomery, and anyone who enjoys getting out and experiencing the natural beauty of West Virginia,” Miller said in a press release. “After years of hard work, I am thrilled to see this new pier and park open to the public.
“This pier is proof of the great things that can happen when we work together at all levels of government to deliver for the Mountain State. I’m excited to see the people of West Virginia enjoying the fresh air with friends and loved ones on this pier for years to come.
“We’re making memories this morning, aren’t we?” Ingram said to those assembled. “The dream of this pier began on May 28, 2013. … On September 26, 2013, we consummated the purchase of the property. A dear friend of ours, Sandy Huddleston (Ingram waved at Huddleston in the crowd), went to the Fayette County Commission and bought this property at a tax sale.
The city had to come to terms with three Native American tribes for the project to move forward, Ingram said.
David White, then a city councilman and now a Montgomery recorder, “just worked tirelessly” to “bring this day here so we can celebrate it,” Ingram said.
The site was partially cleared when a burnt-out house was dismantled by white and labor release crews from Mount Olive Correctional Center and AmeriCorps VISTA workers, the mayor said. “He (White) and a former city employee laid the first four piles to get this project off the ground.”
White and (Town Administrator) Angela Tackett secured a $5,000 Governors Community Involvement Grant to advance the project, and City Council successfully applied for a 50-50 grant from the Land Water Conservation Fund, the board approving a consideration of $100,000 to the LWCF funds.
The city also applied for and received a $37,000 grant from the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation to install a kayak launch and access facilities at the site in the future, and the Coal Heritage Foundation provided a grant. $12,000 for an information booth.
So far, about $240,000 has been spent, but “we still have a long way to go,” Ingram said.
The city unsuccessfully applied for earmarked funds to help fundraise, Ingram said.
“We plan to reapply for funding in the next window of opportunity,” he said.
The original pre-Covid-19 offers were $200,000 for the entire park. Post-Covid, bids from four contractors ranged from $670,000 to $899,000.
“That’s what Covid did to us,” Ingram said.
About $439,000 is needed to expand further, so “if there’s anyone here who has the money and wants to donate, we’ll definitely do that.”
Future work includes the kayak launch and second level river access.
The Mayor thanked, among others, the Montgomery City Council, the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, the Coal Heritage Foundation, the Land Water Conservation Fund, John McGarrity of the West Virginia Department of Commerce, the Fayette County and Kanawha County, Region 4 PDC, Representative Carol Miller and other Legislative Representatives and “everyone who wrote letters of support to make this day possible.”
“I couldn’t be happier,” he said.
John Frisby is chairman of the Montgomery Board of Parks and Recreation, and the Fishing Pier is one of the considered parks under the board’s oversight.
“Where we are right now will be awesome,” Frisby said. “Access to water for Montgomery residents who don’t live on the river isn’t always easy. You have the marina which is really the only place you can go, because (under the bridge) you’re not supposed to go fishing. People do it, even though they’re not supposed to.
“Now we’re going to give the people of Montgomery and the community, and not just the people of Montgomery, a place where they can have access to the water to go fishing, to sit on the water, to go watch the water,” he added.
There will be street parking and other parking options are being evaluated, Frisby said.
“As chairman of the park board and obviously a resident of Montgomery, you see these things and want to bring more people to come to town. It’s like the Hatfield-McCoy trails and some of these other things that come to town, it’s going to give people who’ve never been here a reason to stop in Montgomery and see what we have to offer.
“I just think that’s how we will become a viable community again. We’re starting to do more and have more reason to cross the bridge or stop in town, eat at places like Fruits of Labor, and use our pier.
“Even more,” he said, “if we can get the Montgomery Recreation and Aquatic Center (Neal D. Baisi Center) to work, it will be more of a destination than an afterthought.”
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