Marion rec plan

The first components of a new outdoor recreation area in Marion are nearly complete. Funding for even more development is expected.

With housing and commercial development well under way along Callan Drive, a new neighborhood is being created in the town – one that sits next to Emory & Henry College’s School of Health Science. Earlier this year, the town, after having it under option for several years, acquired the old quarry property that lies next to the developing neighborhood. While one of the quarry holes is being used for disposal of brush and leaves, the town has long eyed transforming much of the land into a multi-use recreation area.

That process is under way.

The dog park was the first component. Already dedicated and open for use, the dog park is complete except for a few tweaks.

Next in the plans is an amphitheater.

Last week, Town Manager Bill Rush informed the town council that it is about 75 percent complete. Rush said the land forms a natural amphitheater.

In the longer term, the town wants to include walking trails, a playground, two soccer fields, two ball fields and possibly a gymnasium.

To help cover costs, the town applied for a $250,000 National Park Service grant administered by Virginia’s Department of Conservation and Recreation. According to Rush, the town has received tentative approval and has been asked to complete an in-depth appraisal and environmental assessment of the site. If those come back in good order, Rush said, officials have indicated they’ll recommend approval of the funds.

If awarded, Rush said, the grant will accelerate the project from a 10-year timeframe to about five years.

The town is also looking at creative solutions to building up the area instead of buying topsoil, which can be expensive for large scale projects. Crews have been filling in the land with dirt excavated from several commercial building sites and ditches as the town upgrades its sewer and water lines.

That, however, is not enough soil.

So the town has turned its attention to sludge.

Town staff is researching composting treated sludge and wood chips to create Class A bio-solids. Such bio-solids can be used as fertilizer for farms and vegetable gardens and can be sold as compost or fertilizer. Marion could use it to help build up the quarry land.

Rush noted that the composting would not only lower the recreation project’s cost, but would also reduce the town’s costs for disposing its sludge in a landfill.

Since the grant is specifically for outdoor recreation, it may preclude the town from using its funds for a gym. Nonetheless, Rush said, the town has long wanted its own gym for programming. Marion has a great relationship with the schools to use their gyms, he said, but all the town’s activities have to be worked around the schools’ programming.

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