Published first on the Progress News, June 20, 2022

If someone could please let me know where the year has gone, I’d much appreciate it. But, here we are in the middle of June already, so it seems like a great time for a project update!

Over at the River Roots Community Farm, a generous donation from AC Valley teacher Jennifer Stover gave us plenty of veggies, herbs, and companion flowers to fill the raised beds. A huge thanks also to Jeremy Layburn, who worked with Ms. Stover’s class to get the plants in the beds while I was in Boston. Now we’re working on getting everything settled in and off to a good start for the season – and protected from our local (and seemingly very hungry) wildlife. A couple of fruit trees didn’t make it through the winter, so we’ll be replacing those soon, and we’re also continuing work on the forest trail. We applied for a grant from the USDA earlier this year, which would give us funding for a proper shed and rainwater collection system, a gazebo, and other improvements and additions to the farm. We should hear sometime in the next month if we were one of the lucky ones to get some of this USDA funding, but little by little, our garden is growing!  

In brownfield news, work continues on the Fuchs site, with the last (we hope!) round of sampling complete and off for analysis. There’s still no word on the status of the remediation funding in limbo through the Industrial Site Reuse Program (ISRP), but we hope to see some movement at the state government level on the fate of that program over the next several months. Once that – or another funding source – comes through, we will finally be able to start remediation works! Since we don’t know if the ISRP will be revived or not, we’re moving ahead with an application for the next round of EPA remediation funding. Applications go in for that this autumn, and we’ll know next May if we are awarded any funds. Up in Oil City, sampling just got underway this past week at the Kraft/Dahlstrom site. It’s a huge, messy job, so we expect this part of the process to take a while. Cleanup of the surface rubbish (and we’re talking mountains of old scrap, tires, trash, and who knows what else) started in earnest a few months ago, and the site already looks worlds different than it did this time last year. But now we have to figure out what rubbish is IN the ground, and how best to clean it up. It’s slow, tedious work, but we’ll get there. The funding we were awarded last month from the EPA will allow us to continue to identify and assess sites across the region, so we’re lining up more places that need our attention, too. There is definitely no shortage of old industrial land needing some love in our area!

Next week we’ll look at some ripples from the recent visit by the Ambassador of Azerbaijan, and what relationships like this can mean for our area. Stay tuned!

Cover Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash