Dungannon hits roadblock on playground construction

Holly Viers • Mar 11, 2018 at 2:30 PM

GATE CITY – For the last five years, Dungannon Mayor Debra Horne’s main objective has been to improve the quality of life for children in the town.

Part of that objective is building a new playground, something the town doesn’t currently have. The town recently received a grant to build it, but the project is now up in the air because of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

“(DEQ) said it would cause an environmental impact to the river,” Horne said. “The river is almost a mile away from the playground.”

The background

Horne said the playground property was donated to the town for the sole purpose of building a playground. Volunteers have already done some minor work on the 0.82 acre-property, and the town received $35,000 in grant money to continue the project.

Before beginning the major work, the town’s playground committee contacted the Army Corps of Engineers, which said the project would have no negative environmental impact.

Once the DEQ found out about the project, though, Horne said it ordered the town to stop construction due to an “emergent wetland” near the playground site.

Now, Horne said DEQ has asked the town to buy $70,000 worth of mitigation credits in order to move forward with the project, which the town cannot afford.

”The kids in that town have walked up to me and asked me, ‘What’s wrong with us that we can’t have things that other towns have?’” Horne said. “They are very intelligent children, and they do deserve a playground.”

The county’s response

Horne addressed these concerns to the Scott County Board of Supervisors during its meeting last Wednesday. Horne and BOS member Danny Mann said the “emergent wetland” designation only recently came about because of drainage from a nearby creek.

“All it is is just water drainage coming off the hill and pooling up there with no place to go … There’s never been a wetland there before; it’s just happened when the ditch line caved in,” Horne said.

Horne added that a solution needs to be found soon, because the grant funds must be used by the end of June. To expedite the process, BOS members voted to call and send a letter to the state’s elected officials, asking them to persuade DEQ to allow the project without the $70,000 in mitigation.

Bill Dingus, assistant county administrator, added that he would personally contact DEQ to find out “what their problem is with this project.”

“It’s not a business; it’s kids on a playground,” Mann said. “What’s that going to contribute to (the environment) other than these kids having a place to play?”

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