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Norfolk Southern to spend more than $25 million to renovate East Palestine City Park

 A cinderblock backboard is painted green with an image of people playing tennis.
Abigail Bottar
/
Ideastream Public Media
East Palestine Park includes tennis courts, baseball fields, basketball courts, a large wooden playground and picnic tables. Norfolk Southern plans to invest $25 million in improvements to the park including an aquatic center and pool house, three new playgrounds, an amphitheater, upgraded baseball fields, new basketball and tennis courts, and improvements to the pavilion and walkways.

Norfolk Southern is funding more than $25 million in renovations for a park in East Palestine. The hope is that the improvements will become a revenue generator for the village that’s been struggling since the train derailment more than five months ago.

Since the Norfolk Southern train derailment and release of toxic chemicals, residents have complained of continued health problems they say are connected to the derailment, as well as a devaluation in home prices and a negative perception of the village.

 Picnic tables and wooden benches on a grassy area beside a large wooden playground with a climbing structure, slide and swings.
Abigail Bottar
/
Ideastream Public Media
East Palestine Park includes a playground, tennis courts, baseball fields and paved paths for walking. Norfolk Southern plans to invest $25 million in the park including a new aquatic center and pool house. The company says the improvements are a response to residents' requests for revenue generating investments in the town following the Feb. 3 toxic train derailment.

East Palestine City Council approved the plan for Norfolk Southern to revitalize East Palestine City Park Monday. The improvements will include a new aquatic center and pool house, three new playgrounds, an amphitheater, upgraded baseball fields, new basketball and tennis courts, improvements to the pavilion, enhanced parking and general upgrades to facilities and walkways.

These improvements are something residents asked Norfolk Southern for during frequent conversations, Director of Corporate Giving Kristin Wong said.

“One of the things that the community told us is that they were really interested in features that would bring in revenue for the city and also be sustainable for the long term," Wong said, adding that they hope improvements like the aquatic center and amphitheater will generate more revenue for the village.

The next step for Norfolk Southern is to develop a full master plan for the park, Wong said.

 The pavement of a basketball court in East Palestine Park is lined with black tar where cracks have been fixed.
Abigail Bottar
/
Ideastream Public Media
New basketball courts at East Palestine Park are part of the $25 million in investments Norfolk Southern plans to make after its train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in the small town on Feb. 3, 2023.

“But we are hoping to break ground this year, of course once we get all the council approvals and all the details," Wong said. Norfolk Southern plans to roll out the improvements in waves to not disrupt complete use of the park.

Norfolk Southern said, including the money for the park, it’s spent a total of $62 million in East Palestine since the train derailment in February. The company is also on the hook for the cost of the cleanup and environmental remediation following the derailment.

In a press release from Norfolk Southern, East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway said he believes the village is going to be better than it was before the train derailment.

“It seems like Norfolk Southern is trying to make it right," Conaway said, "and I just ask for everyone’s patience through this process.”

Norfolk Southern is working with Michael Baker International, an architecture firm based in Pittsburgh, on the renovations.

 A sign welcomes visitors to East Palestine Park. The electronic display reads, "EP STRONG" in green and red.
Abigail Bottar
/
Ideastream Public Media
Norfolk Southern is planning to invest $25 million to renovate East Palestine Park in an effort to help generate revenue for the city following a train derailment in the Columbiana County town on the border of Pennsylvania.

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Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.