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