BUCKHANNON — Upshur County residents fishing for something fun to do will soon be able to get hooked on a popular outdoors hobby, thanks to a new recreational project coming to the Buckhannon river walk.
Create Buckhannon is planning to construct a handicapped-accessible fishing area at the Buckhannon River just off the river walk, organization member Buck Edwards told council at its regular meeting last Thursday.
Mayor David McCauley said he was whole-heartedly in favor of the project, which would serve to enhance the quality of life in Buckhannon.
“I think we have a request from the folks who are working to realize the handicapped fishing pier wharf down at the Buckhannon River, just off the Rivertrail,” McCauley told council.
However, in order for the project to come to fruition, Create Buckhannon had to first complete a specialized hydraulics study, which came with a price tag of $5,500. They asked city council to help foot the bill.
“You can’t just have anybody do this,” McCauley remarked. “You have to have special engineers do this, and the cost to conduct this study is $5,500. The group has in the neighborhood of $3,000 toward the $5,500 bill that was generated, so they have come to the city.”
Edwards took the podium and explained the project in further detail.
“Basically, the idea came up a couple years ago that we would like to build a handicapped facility down at the river walk to provide a place for folks to get down there and fish,” Edwards told council members. “But I’ve noticed the banks along the river are very steep, and to me, that’s a real safety concern. I’m afraid there’s going to be a call one day that someone fell in the river from fishing in that river.”
Edwards noted the study had already been completed, and the results revealed that the fishing area for the bank stabilization project will have no impact on the Buckhannon River’s floodplain.
But even though the study is complete, Create Buckhannon still has to pay the bill, according to Edwards.
“I can tell you that this will be a real asset for our community,” Edwards said. “Basically, we’re going to do a 100-foot retaining wall with a concrete top that will absorb water that hits it because you have to do those kind of things. And there will be a nice sidewalk for handicapped folks to get down there.”
The fishing area will run along the bank of the river. It will not be a traditional pier in that it will not stick out into the river itself.
Councilman David Thomas observed that the fishing area is geared toward more people than just those who are handicapped.
“It’s not just for handicapped folks,” Thomas said. “It sounds like it’s for everybody.”
Edwards replied, “It is for everybody; it’s going to be a multi-use project. People will come from all over to be able to fish there, especially if we have catchable fish, which is a real asset.”
McCauley lauded the developments at the river walk, noting the summer music on the river series as well as plans for a dog park and a rose garden.
“The river walk is fast emerging as one of those must-see places,” the mayor said. “Amby (Amberle Jenkins, director of finance and administration for the city), do we have any contingency capital outlay left at all at this juncture? What can you tell us?”
Jenkins replied said the city had “a little bit” of council capital outlay.
“You’ve given $5,000 to Festival Fridays,” she said. “You have $10,000 sitting out there for façade grants.”
McCauley asked Edwards to provide the city with an invoice, including the funds Create Buckhannon has already collected, to pay for the hydraulics study. The mayor said the city will donate $2,500 to help pay the bill. As of Tuesday, Edwards said that including the city’s $2,500 donation, Create Buckhannon has amassed $4,000 to pay the hydraulics study bill but is still lacking $1,500.
“We’ll come up with it somewhere,” Edwards said.
McCauley reiterated his support for the project.
“This is something I totally support, and I think the city should get behind it as well,” the mayor said. “Somehow, some way, we’ll figure out how to come up with that $2,500.”
Councilwoman Mary Albaugh made a motion to support donating $2,500 to handicapped fishing area, which was seconded by councilman Robbie Skinner before passing unanimously.
Edwards said construction on the project may begin as early as late summer.
In other city council news, council approved on first reading Ordinance No. 416 concerning the “brunch bill.”
The city had previously approved applying to the Municipal Home Rule Board for permission to amend their home rule plan to allow restaurants inside of city limits to begin serving alcohol at 10 a.m. instead of 1 p.m. on Sundays. On Thursday, city attorney Tom O’Neill said the Municipal Home Rule Board was very receptive to the change, and as a result, council needed to vote on whether the changes would actually be implemented within city limits.
“Pursuant to the approval of the city’s amended home rule plan, the city council has before it Ordinance No. 416 for first reading — an ordinance formally enacting the amendment to the City of Buckhannon’s home rule plan providing for the sale or dispensing of alcohol for on-premises consumption on Sundays,” O’Neil explained.
The city attorney noted that, should council pass the ordinance, the first Sunday the new law would be in effect would fall on May 21 — the last day of the W.Va. Strawberry Festival.
Skinner made a motion to pass the ordinance, which was seconded by councilwoman Mary Albaugh before passing unanimously. Councilwoman Pam Cuppari, who has adamantly opposed the ordinance, was absent from Thursday’s meeting.