PARKERSBURG - A beautification project along Juliana Street will begin within the next few weeks.
Mayor Bob Newell said city crews will begin removing sections of the double-wide sidewalks along Juliana and installing grassy sections called bioswales between the street and the remaining sidewalk. The project is part of the Green Parkersburg Initiative, which will look at environmentally friendly and beneficial ways to enhance the city.
Crews Wednesday cut down trees along Juliana in anticipation of replacing swaths of sidewalk with bioswales, grassy and plant-filled areas used to filter rainwater from sidewalks and streets. Officials said roots from the trees were damaging sections of the sidewalks.
Examples of bioswales in other cities show grassy and plant-filled areas separating sidewalks and streets, which are used to filter storm water before it can run into rivers and streams. Parkersburg city crews will begin installing bioswales along Juliana Street within the next few weeks as part of a downtown beautification project.
Though the exact cost of the project is not yet known, the city will pay for the work through its $500,000 stormwater management fund, which is funded through the city's user fee.
"Other cities have a standalone stormwater fee," Newell said. "We wanted the user fee to cover that as well."
Stormwater management has become a hot topic in recent years. The federal Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, has mandated cities work to filter rainwater before it runs into waterways, such as rivers and streams. Newell said steps like street cleaning and even some signage have allowed the city to stay within those EPA-mandated levels, but the bioswales will give the city a boost in stormwater credits.
"The idea is the water runs into these and is mostly absorbed," he said. "Even if it is a heavy rain or it overflows, that water is still being filtered before it reaches the street.
The city will be installing the bioswales throughout the summer, working with local businesses on schedules and maintenance plans. Newell said in most cases the businesses will be responsible for maintaining the bioswales, which mainly will consist of removing trash and debris.
Newell said in addition to the bioswales, officials are looking at improving parking as well. The city next month will consider an agreement with West Virginia University at Parkersburg to renovate a lot along Seventh and Juliana streets for parking. The lot, which sits behind the college's downtown campus building, was recently donated to WVU-P by the Erickson Foundation.
Newell said that lot would likely be maintained by the city as an hourly parking facility. He also said the property would be surrounded by bioswales.
Newell said the city also is working with First Energy on a plan to revamp lighting along Juliana and possibly erecting a barrier around the power station at Eighth and Juliana streets.
But Newell said aside from removal of the trees, officials will hold off on major construction for at least a week or two. The area already has seen traffic delays this week as CSX Railroad workers replaced rails on the tracks above Sixth Street, which crossed several other streets, including Juliana.
"We're going to wait until the train issue is done to start taking the sidewalk out," Newell said. "It will probably be the week after next before we begin."