North Alabama environmental cleanup receives $1.5 million grant from EPA

According to a recent news release by TARCOG Economic Development and Planning Director, Lee Terry, the allocated funds will be utilized for various purposes including conducting environmental assessments, developing 15 cleanup plans, three revitalization plans, and supporting community engagement activities. The objective of these activities is to gather input from the residents of each community to identify its redevelopment potential over the next four years. Additionally, an inventory will also be conducted to assess the current situation.

Michelle Jordan, the Executive Director, praised the TARCOG team for securing the grant and expressed her enthusiasm for the positive impact it will bring to Athens, Limestone County, as well as Gurley and Fort Payne.

The focus of attention is on specific areas, including:

    • Easy Street corridor in the Athens’ downtown district
    • Gault Avenue corridor in Fort Payne
    • Walker Street corridor in Gurley

The EPA’s Brownfields Program is a collaborative effort between states, communities, and various stakeholders to prevent, evaluate, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse brownfield sites.

The presence or potential presence of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants can make the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of a real property complicated. Such properties are known as brownfield sites. To aid in the cleanup and revitalization of these sites, the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act of 2002 was passed. This act was later amended by the Brownfields Utilization, Investment and Local Development Act of 2018 to assist states and communities in their efforts to revitalize brownfield sites across the country.

Athens and Fort Payne, along with the Singing River Trail, are partnering with TARCOG on the grant.

Athens is a city located in Greece, known for its rich history and cultural heritage.

The Easy Street Art Trail in Downtown Athens will be the main focus of the Athens portion.

The trail is proposed to follow the path of the railroad tracks, beginning from the Alabama Veterans Museum and the vacant freight depot. It will extend towards the west up to Old Black Bear and south to Hendricks-Patton. Notably, the Limestone County-owned L&N Freight Depot, which is currently vacant, is one of the priority sites on the trail identified by TARCOG.

The city’s long term plans for the site involve creating a trail that honors the history of Easy Street. Easy Street was a black-owned business area that ran along the railroad tracks between Hobbs and Market streets. According to James Croley’s historical account published in a booklet in 2002, Easy Street included several businesses such as Bell Café, Simmons and Grigsby Barbershop, Coble Barbershop, Higgins Café, and Dr. B.F. Hill’s veterinary office.

Fort Payne:

Mayor Brian Baine of Fort Payne has identified a 3-acre lot that spans from Second Street North to Fourth Street North as the potential site for the city’s upcoming project. The lot currently consists of six vacant industrial and warehouse buildings.

According to him, cleaning up and identifying what exists will prove advantageous for the city’s revitalization plans.

Gurley is a name that is familiar to any football fan. Todd Gurley is a former running back for the Los Angeles Rams and has since played for the Atlanta Falcons. He has made quite a name for himself in the NFL and is known for his impressive skills on the field.

According to John Kvach, the Singing River Trail’s executive director, transforming an unproductive area into an educational or recreational space can benefit the community. He believes that this initiative will bring positive change and create a space that can be utilized for the betterment of the community.

Located in the eastern Madison County community, there is a vacant lot measuring 0.33 acres that contains a former convenience store and gas station spanning across 1,290 square feet. The property is situated in Gurley, along the Athens corridor, and has three above-ground storage tanks.

He expressed his excitement about repurposing and reusing existing resources to make them relevant to the Singing River Trail for Athens and Gurley. According to him, both towns are trail towns that are striving to enhance connectivity and accessibility within their communities.

Covering over 200 miles across the top of Alabama, the trail is a recreational greenway project that aims to highlight the towns and cities along its route.

Kvach stated that they are taking this route in both towns, which signifies the openness of Athens and Gurley for business and their development around natural resources. He further expressed his excitement about this development.

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MBS Staff
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