Avtex Site Goes from Superfund to Super Fun


July 24, 1999


FRONT ROYAL - The vision of molding the Avtex Superfund site into a business and recreational park is closer to reality.

On Friday, it was announced community soccer facilities will be built on former toxic sites.

A host of high-ranking public officials, including Virginia's U.S. Senators, Republican John W. Warner and Democrat Charles S. Robb, joined federal Environmental Protection Administration Administrator Carol Browner in announcing a pilot EPA program aimed at helping communities redevelop Superfund sites into parks, neighborhoods, or commercial districts.

Front Royal and Warren County will be the first of 10 communities with Superfund sites to receive $100,000 grants for site redevelopment.

By the end of 2000, nearly $5 million in grants will be awarded to 50 communities nationwide.

Each community will receive up to $100,000 in the form of a cooperative agreement with local government to conduct reuse assessments. The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority will have stewardship over the local grant money.

"What this . . . will do is encourage communities to develop their reuse plans early in the clean-up process, making it easier to tailor the restoration to the proposed redevelopment," Browner said.

Partnering the redevelopment program will be the United State Soccer Federation Foundation. Daniel T. Flynn, executive director of the group, announced a major national program to design and construct community soccer fields on redeveloped Superfund sites. Avtex will be the first site to receive the assistance of the USSF, he added.

To further promote involvement in Superfund site redevelopment ,Congress is considering a new plan to create "Better America Bonds." The bonds would be an innovative structure of tax credits designed to attract private investment in support of local efforts to help develop toxic waste sites for public uses, such as parks and playing fields.

A local plan has already been developed with the help of a consultant to turn the 400-acre Avtex into a waterfront business and recreation park with a hotel and conference center, industrial park, homes, open space, walking trails, a boat landing, and public recreation area. The community soccer complex is expected to cover about 25 acres, and include 10-12 playing fields.

"Think about it," said Browner. "This land - once a health hazard to the community - will now be home to soccer fields where our kids will come to play a great sport, get healthy, and stay healthy."

Once the nation's largest producer of high-tenacity carbonized rayon, Avtex was shut down by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality on Nov. 10, 1989, after being cited for dozens of emissions violations.

Following Friday's press conference, Browner said Avtex was chosen as the place of the announcement because of its proximity to Washington, D.C., and because the site was at a pivotal point in its future re-use.

She said the new program represents a change in EPA philosophy, which she has steered during the last six years. Before, the government focused its attention on actual cleanup of Superfund sites. Now, the goal is to shift the focus to productive, economic re-use under which communities become key players in shaping the out come.

"We are cutting the crown jewel in the Valley of Virginia with this magnificent partnership," said Warner.

Warner said he has personal interest in seeing the Shenandoah River near Avtex return to a haven for bass fishing. Warner’s family farm, on which his son now; lives, is along the river near Milldale.

Robb said a partnership involving the community, private industry and government at Avtex will work because the community will develop a vested interest in the project.