By Peggy Mackenzie
A multi-phased sustainable planning initiative may transform Ronceverte into one of the greenest small towns in rural Appalachia. Downstream Strategies, an environmental consulting company headquartered in Morgantown, and stakeholders at the Ronceverte Development Corp’s Main Street program developed the Ronceverte Eco-Community Plan to encourage local economic growth and environmental sustainability. Stakeholders established a framework for the plan based on three primary components – water, energy, and community – with a particular focus on stormwater management, energy efficiency, renewable energy development, and enhancing quality of life for residents.
The Ronceverte Eco-Community plan will be implemented over the course of five years, starting with small scale projects like energy assessments and building up to more infrastructure-intensive projects like the construction of an electric car charging station. These measures can increase tourism, foster community development, and promote energy efficiency, ultimately establishing Ronceverte as a model of Appalachian sustainability.
The Ronceverte Eco-Community Plan lists several city-wide projects to reduce energy consumption, decrease consumption of potable water, all while fostering community involvement and participation. A community garden is planned for Ronceverte to be located at the defunct pool site at Island Park. Energy assessments have been conducted at three local businesses with suggestions for lighting, insulation, and temperature setbacks which could save those businesses hundreds to thousands of dollars each year in energy costs. Assessments of Ronceverte’s solar resources suggest that solar panels could be installed on virtually every commercial building in town. The gross cost of solar panel implementation is estimated to be $6,000 to $7,000 per kilowatt, and federal incentives are available to reduce costs. Ronceverte also has the potential to establish hydropower, biomass, geothermal, and waste heat resources. Stormwater management could be achieved through the installation of rain gardens and bioswales that improve rainfall infiltration and reduce runoff Rain barrels could be used on park shelters and commercial buildings to collect water for non-potable human uses, like watering flowers.
Downstream Strategies offers environmental consulting services that combine sound interdisciplinary skills with a core belief in the importance of protecting the environment and linking economic development with natural resource stewardship. For more information, go to www.downstreamstrategies.com.
Ronceverte is seeking partners, collaborators, and financial support for many of the projects listed in the eco-community plan. For more information, call 304-647-3140 or send contact information to www.surveymonkey.com/s/CRS7727.