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Community Picnic kicks off revitalization efforts in Central City

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On Tuesday, July 31 the ON TRAC program launched in Central City in West Huntington. The program, created by Main Street West Virginia, focuses on the revitalization of West Huntington and 14th Street West through education, evaluation and advanced technical assistance. West Huntington was one of two communities in West Virginia designated for the ON TRAC status.

“Today is a fitting day to launch the ON TRAC program in West Huntington as it is the 125th anniversary of Old Central City’s corporation,” Mayor Steve Williams said. “We are looking forward to several years that we have in front of us. Two years to plan and then the decades to continue, but this whole area will transform. It’s going to set an example that the rest of the nation will be able to follow.”

The ON TRAC Community liaison Lauren Kemp sees the uniqueness of Central City and hopes to preserve the history of the community while also providing opportunities for the community to thrive.

“There’s a lot of history of craft and making on this street. They used to make barrels, they used to process meat here and ship it off to Chicago. There are just a lot of cool, maker-based things that happened here and that’s the true history of this street,” Kemp said. “For me, with The Wild Ramp, having local food, the only kind of food that’s local here. Its unique to this area because it’s grown here. The antiques are one of a kind items. I just want to create an environment where everything unique can thrive in West Huntington.”

A lot of volunteer efforts are happening in West Huntington and Kemp said she hopes to connect all the efforts with a formal revitalization program.

“We have had a lot strong volunteer efforts, for example, the West Huntington organization has these red trash cans around the neighborhood. They, as volunteers, go and pick up the trash and manage the bus stop,” Kemp said. “There is just this incredible volunteer effort, but there isn’t a formal revitalization program, so I hope to kind of bring ON TRAC and Main Street and the formalization and professionalization to expand what we can achieve as far as resources and interaction with businesses. There has been a lot of struggle, but we also see that there’s a lot of opportunity.”

With the ON TRAC program, West Huntington will go through a two-year period in which participants will receive an assessment of strengths and weaknesses, access to an online library of databases and resources, training workshops and technical design visits.

Breanna Shell, the planning director for the City of Huntington, is happy to join the program knowing the assistance will help West Huntington gain more trajectory.

“We are so happy to be part of this year’s class of people being added to the ON TRAC program. This program is going to be able to help West Huntington and 14th Street West Main street get some outside assistance, how to organize ourselves better, how to promote ourselves better, how to think about filling in those little things that are missing and continue on the trajectory we are on, but be able to add to it in a very strategic way,” Shell said.

Sadie Helmick can be contacted at helmick32@marshall.edu.

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