October 06, 1999

Workshops set to outline Avtex cleanup

Residents to express ideas for features of recreation facilities

By Diane Hartson

The cleanup of toxic waste basins and fly ash pits at the former Avtex Fibers plant in Front Royal will be coordinated with plans for recreation use of that portion of the site, officials said Tuesday night.

And landscape architects will be meeting with local residents in the next two months to find out what should be included in the design for that area.

About half of the 582 -acre Superfund site is planned for recreational and nature conservancy uses.

At a meeting of the Avtex Stakeholders Group, William G. Cutler, remediation project manager of the site for the FMC Corp., a former site owner, said FMC will hire a landscape architecture consulting firm by the end of the month. The company, which is taking over responsibility for the remaining cleanup of the site, plans to integrate the future uses into its cleanup, he said.

Closure of basins in the western portion of the site will begin in the spring or summer, he said.

Cutler said FMC will spend about $200,000 on the creation of a design for the recreational half of the site. The closure project is expected to have a price tag of about $17.5 million, he said.

Officials outlined a timeline calling for the landscape firm to meet informally with local groups, residents and officials between Nov. 16 and Dec. 3.

Two workshop dates have been set on Nov. 15, when the consultants will detail paremeters for the design, and Dec. 4 when residents and officials will have a chance to tell the landscape architects what features should be included in the plan.

"When we walk away, you’re going to have exactly what you need" to start implementing the recreation and conservancy plan with river access, public recreation and wildlife conservation areas, Cutler said.

Although FMC won’t be building recreational facilities unless they can be included simply as part of cleanup efforts, it will take into account what the recreation plan calls for, he said.

Grading will create "undulating slopes" that will be suitable for trails, he said.

Phenix Hearn of the Women’s Alliance for Environmental Renewal and Justice offered that group’s expertise in ensuring that the "minutest critter" and plant life are preserved when the bulldozers start rolling for the basin closures.

The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority expects to take ownership of the site by the end of the year. The authority has created a plan for redevelopment of the site that includes, on the eastern portion, a 155 acre business park, a 26-acre soccer field complex and restoration of the front office building facing Kendrick Lane.

That plan calls for the 240 acres west of the railroad tracks that cut though the site to be used for recreation and conservation.

The stakeholders group has been formed to give residents a voice in use of the site.

Proposed at Tuesday’s meeting was a membership list for people and groups that have attended the meetings, including residential and industrial neighbors of the site, Randolph-Macon Academy, Friends of the Shenandoah River and the alliance.

The next stakeholders meeting will be Nov. 15 and will include the landscape architect’s presentation on the recreation plan process, officials said.