Community, Government, Latest News, Monongalia County

Community garden program a requirement of Green Bag Road project

MORGANTOWN — Call it Green Bag’s gardening greenbacks. 

Or, maybe, seed money. 

Whatever it’s called, members of the Morgantown Monongalia Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Policy Board are hopeful an environmental requirement to fund community gardens doesn’t further hinder a Green Bag Road project with origins stretching back to 2014. 

Earlier this week, the board gave MPO Executive Director Bill Austin the green light to work with representatives from the city of Morgantown to put together application criteria and a steering committee to oversee the distribution of $15,000 to assist the creation of community gardens in Morgantown and the wider urban area. 

It’s not optional. 

The gardening grant program is a requirement of Phase I of the Green Bag Road improvements that will eliminate a community garden owned by the Hastings family at the intersection of Green Bag and Kingwood Pike. 

The Phase I project will widen Green Bag and build roundabouts at the intersections with Kingwood Pike and Mississippi Street. That work has already been funded. 

According to The Dominion Post archive, the project is estimated at $19 million — including $3 million in right-of-way improvements in the current fiscal year and $16 million for roundabout construction in fiscal year 2025. 

Austin explained the community garden program is necessary for the West Virginia Division of Highways and Federal Highway Administration to clear the Green Bag Road designs as having no significant environmental impact. 

“When you lose a resource like a community garden or something of that nature as part of a transportation project, there are environmental regulations that require you to mitigate that impact,” he said. 

Policy board members said they would like to be kept apprised as the details of the program are finalized and urged close oversight as the funds are distributed. 

Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom was the most vocal, explaining Green Bag Road is already “a touchy subject.” 

“I do not want an $18 million project to stop because of some technicality over a community garden. That’s my major concern, and that is the avenue that has been used, not by us, but by others,” Bloom said. “I have a real concern about that.” 

Austin said he can’t envision that happening as long as the effort is made. 

“If we don’t make a good-faith effort on this issue, then we might have some concerns. As long as we’re making a good-faith effort there’s no concern with it,” he said.

While the details of the garden grant program largely remain in process, Austin explained up to $5,000 will be available per project application. The money can’t be used to purchase or secure property but is intended to cover implements, seeds and other gardening expenses.