The Oil Region Alliance (ORA) has identified four priority brownfield sites along the Allegheny-Clarion River Valley (ACRV) corridor, as well as two brownfield sites located within Oil City, which require environmental assessment and reuse planning and are deemed critical to the economic and social resilience of the entire Oil Heritage Region. Revitalization efforts will necessitate a coordinated, mixed-use strategy, incorporating stormwater management and environmental conservation, increased recreational access and amenity, enhanced commercial opportunity, and a reawakening of civic pride. These river valley brownfields present tremendous redevelopment potential in the eyes of the local populace as well as the region in general. Some sites have undergone previous environmental assessment and cleanup, but all require current testing, assessment and evaluation to intelligently inform reuse planning.
Emlenton hosts two of the identified priority brownfield sites: the former Quaker State Refinery, a 50-acre brownfield currently owned by the Honeywell Corporation; and the former Fuchs Lubricants facility, a 1.3-acre brownfield acquired by the ORA in 2016. The remaining priority brownfields are located in Foxburg and Parker. In addition to these priority sites, many other redevelopment-worthy brownfields are dotted throughout the region, such as the Dahlstrom and Kraft sites (3.6 acres) in Oil City.
Our region is striving for resilience, looking with hope toward outdoor recreation and sustainable use of the river and forested hillsides for future purpose and prosperity, but we are faced with the seemingly insurmountable task of cleaning up after previous generations. Brownfields are now hindering the balanced development of thousands of feet of river frontage, serving not just as a reminder of everything we once had and lost, but also as a very real barrier to the establishment of improved educational, environmental, and economic opportunity and recreational amenities. Neighborhoods in our towns are plagued by blight and drug use, while commerce and industry continue to struggle. With few jobs, there is little encouraging the younger generations to stay. The pathway to resilience for the Oil Heritage Region hinges on the river, and the EPA Brownfields Community-Wide Assessment Grant is the key to unlocking the gate.