White Park - Voluntary Remediation Program

This page serves as a hub for information related to the city's application for White Park to be entered into the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Voluntary Remediation Program. Below you will find useful information on the history of White Park and the city's plans for investing in the future of the park.

White Park History

White Park serves as one of the City of Morgantown’s most important community assets. The 170-acre property is nestled in First Ward and used by residents from all of Morgantown and the surrounding areas. The five ballfields host dozens of little league and adult recreational softball teams throughout the year, and the basketball courts and ice rink provide opportunities for both general use and organized sports. Picnic areas provide casual respite and rentable pavilion host countless formal and informal events.

White Park's Industrial Legacy

The land that now contains White Park was previously used as part of historically significant oil industry operations. At the turn of the 20th century, what was then known as the South Morgantown Tank Farm was rapidly expanded to support the production coming from these fields. The Eureka Pipeline Company, a subsidiary of Standard Oil, operated the farm between its creation in 1890 and its eventual retirement in the 1940’s and 1950’s. At its height, the farm likely stored more than two million barrels of oil in nearly 80 tanks. It stretched from Dorsey Avenue up to the back of the Morgantown Mall and covered around 700 acres. At the end of its operational life, a few of the tanks in the farm were used by the Morgantown Ordnance Works in its support of World War II.

This history has given White Park several things. The first is its name – an homage to I.C. White, whose 1927 obituary in the Morgantown Post tells us he was known as Morgantown’s “foremost citizen” while he was alive. The second is its unique geography. To help protect the environment, the tanks were surrounded by primary and secondary containment berms that largely remain intact today. These berms simultaneously form useful features for mountain biking and also have created diverse habitat for wetland plants and animals. The third thing this history has given White Park is its status as a brownfield.

White Park's Trail System

White Park also houses Morgantown’s oldest and most extensive urban, off-road trail system. The nearly 17 miles of existing trails in White Park are used more heavily than any other BOPARC-managed trails, likely due to their proximity to residential areas and two centers of education. Although not all existing trails are formally sanctioned and maintained by BOPARC crews and volunteers, the entire trail system serves several important functions. Around 5 miles of learning loops and gravel trails provide direct neighborhood access to park amenities and serve as low-stress transportation corridors between neighborhoods. 

Originally signed in the early 2010’s, the 3.4-mile Blue Diamond Race Loop is the pillar of local mountain biking within city limits. The 10-mile soft-surface trail system also provides a few areas for off-road biking “skill progression” where jumps, berms, and other bike features have been built and maintained by volunteers under agreement with BOPARC. This same system serves cross-country teams, the South Middle Bicycle Club, hikers, birders, and several other trail user groups.

Although beloved and heavily used, the White Park trail system has largely been developed from social and wildlife trails over the past century. Common to many east-coast parks, this type of informal development results in convoluted urban trail systems. A recent trail survey in White Park found more than 250 trail-to-trail intersections and dozens of trail-to-road intersections. The dense trail network and excessive number of intersections, combined with poor sightlines, narrow trail corridors, little signage, and minimal trail improvements, make for difficult navigation. 

Recent complaints of unsanctioned trail construction and documented friction between different user groups have prompted BOPARC and the City to begin planning investments to better meet the needs of the community. Upgrades to other park amenities are also either planned or, in the case of the ice rink expansion and the new Southside Trail, have already been funded and are in the final stages of design. The City and BOPARC are excited to announce plans to expand recreational services at this important park.

Future Plans for White Park

Programs that help communities address brownfields have evolved significantly over time. As the community has requested expansion and upgrade of our recreational amenities in White Park, the City intends to take the lead on all future assessment and cleanup activities. The WVDEP’s Voluntary Remediation Program (VRP) and recently expanded federal and state grant dollars will provide the framework and funding for the City to proactively lead this effort in a public and expedited fashion. Although no state or federal regulatory agencies have indicated current, direct health hazards, White Park’s history warrants an assessment that will provide a comprehensive understanding of the landscape.

Our assessment activities in the VRP will be guided by our collective desired public uses for the park. This summer, we will begin a master trail design process for the entire park to better meet park user needs and desires, conserve the natural landscape, protect sensitive habitats, and highlight the rich industrial, ecological, and social history of the area through interpretive signage. Through our recent work preparing to build the Southside Trail, we have come to understand that trail construction itself can be a primary cleanup technique.

Benefits of the Master Trail Plan

The master trail design will help us formalize and build a trail system that accommodates all users while also preserving the ecosystem to support the environmental benefits of a forested landscape. The trail will be designed and constructed with proper oversight so that human health and the environment will be protected. There will be educational signs along the trail that will include historical and ecological information.

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A timeline showing the history of White Park.