Published first on the Progress News, May 16, 2022

We are absolutely delighted to announce that the ORA’s Redevelopment program has been selected to receive another EPA Community-Wide Assessment (CWA) grant! We were one of only six applicants selected in Pennsylvania for this round, so we consider ourselves extremely fortunate to have made the cut. Our first CWA grant, awarded to us in 2020, was focused on the Emlenton and Oil City areas, so our proposal for this round was to fill in the information gap between those two communities.

We are grateful that the EPA agreed with our strategy and awarded us $500,000 to finish off the assessment and remediation planning started under our first grant and to start assessing several properties on the old ARCO refinery grounds, located in what is now the riverfront portion of Sugarcreek Township along Route 8 between Franklin and Oil City. A market survey and strategic planning for future development of the entire area, tying it in to our regional Innovation Ecosystem initiative, is also part of this new grant, and will give a boost to the efforts of our partner organizations and institutions in central Venango County. It was also important to us to be able to provide technical assistance to private property owners who are wrangling with potential brownfield sites.

John Phillips, ORA President and CEO, noted that “as a Rural Development Hub Organization, this award will enable the Alliance to continue to develop, assess, and work to implement this extremely important program in the Oil Heritage Region. These former industrial sites need to become once again an asset to the communities they are located in.”

With the support of this CWA grant, the ORA can continue its mission to equitably and strategically nurture the resources and opportunities along the river for the benefit of all who call this area home. The vision that first drove our brownfield redevelopment strategy – of vibrant waterfront communities linked by history, water, and trail – has been validated and strengthened as new partners have joined our coalition and new sites are selected for redevelopment. Community by community, the vision of revitalized town centers, accessible green spaces, equitable educational opportunities, and investment in sustainable and regenerative industry now extends to new corners of the Oil Region National Heritage Area.

The entire ORA team wants to thank the EPA for their trust and confidence in our work, and I, personally, am beyond thrilled to continue our partnership with the EPA as we continue to find, remediate, and work toward purposeful redevelopment of these sites. We are fully committed to developing projects focused on resource sharing, entrepreneurship, and community amenity where everyone has a chance to be a part of the next wave of innovation for our region. With this new grant, we take another step in our journey!  As always, please feel free to reach out if you would like to learn more!

Cover Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash