Palmetto officials took a step forward on Monday with plans to turn 1.5 acres at 505 Fifth St. W., long known as the Edenfield property, into a new city park.
There is much work remaining to bring the years-old project to fruition. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chose to award the city of Palmetto a $200,000 brownfield cleanup grant in May of 2016 and the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency is ready to put those funds to work.
Though a pristine piece of property along the Manatee River, it’s historical use by CSX Railroad was to store creosote railroad ties. Studies have been ongoing to determine the overall environmental impact to the land since the CRA acquired the property from the city in 2014.
Chemicals such as creosote and arsenic, typically associated with a train storage yard, were discovered, but appear to be largely surface related. The funds will be used to excavate contaminated soils, ship it off for destruction and replace with clean fill. The environmental assessment, conducted by Cardno TBE, showed no evidence of groundwater contamination.
EPA studies show residential property values near cleaned up brownfield sites increase between 5-15 percent.
The CRA had initially discussed making it the city’s first dog park, but that idea didn’t receive a lot of enthusiasm from the dais. Consensus is leaning more toward a passive city park, but officials still have time to work out conceptual ideas. Monday’s action moves the process forward in getting the property cleaned up.
Plans also call for a possible land switch with a local cannery that would gain northern acreage for additional use, and the CRA would receive equal land to the west to make the park more continuous along the river. The land swap is a sticking point for Vice Mayor Brian Williams, who said it would create too much traffic near a residential area to the east.
“I’m OK with saying that it’s just a concept, but I need to see more details on parking and how it will fit in with that neighborhood,” Williams said.
CRA Director Jeff Burton said the plans follow the city’s 2006 Waterfront Plan that envisioned the property as a park at that time.
The EPA estimates there are 450,000 abandoned and contaminated waste sites in America.
“All that it says in here right now is that we just want to make it a park,” said Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant. “We’ll have more discussions on that and discuss renaming the property at a future meeting.”
Cleanup was expected to begin as early as late last year, but is still tracking on schedule. The EPA chose 218 brownfield projects to fund cleanup in 2016 totaling $55.2 million in 131 communities across the country.
“These grants will empower communities to transform idle, languishing lands into vibrant hubs for business, jobs and recreation,” Gina McCarthy, the previous EPA administrator, said last May. “It’s all about providing that initial funding and sparking that first conversation to set stalled sites on a path toward smart, safe redevelopment that directly benefits communities.”