It’s gone through several idea changes since Palmetto’s Community Redevelopment Agency acquired 1.5 acres of pristine property along the Manatee River on Fifth Street West.
Initially proposed as a much-needed dog park, the city commission shot that idea down almost immediately when the CRA presented the proposal in 2015. The next idea was to initiate some land swaps with a nearby cannery to give them more parking spaces while elongating the park along the river. Vice Mayor Brian Williams was hesitant to proceed until a traffic study was done to document the impact to a nearby mobile home park.
CRA Director Jeff Burton said Monday that it didn’t matter because the land swap fell through. The good news, Burton noted, is that long-awaited work to begin cleaning up the brownfield site could begin as early as February. The property has long been known as the Edenfield property after the Edenfield family purchased the surplus land from CSX Railroad decades ago.
CSX Railroad used the land to store creosote railroad ties, and an environmental assessment done on the land showed “hotspot” areas of creosote and arsenic. The assessment showed that the areas of contamination were isolated to surface areas. Burton said, on average, only about 4 inches of topsoil will need to be removed, and clean fill will be brought in to clean the site.
“We’ll start to dig that up within the next 60 days,” Burton said.
Because it is designated a brownfield, the CRA received a $200,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the site, as well as about $100,000 in state tax credits. Burton said the CRA also is in the process of applying for Southwest Florida Water Management funds to improve stormwater treatment on the property leading to the Manatee River.
“We’ll also have some cooperative funding that will pay for some off-site work to expand the property as a stormwater collection basin, which will allow us to apply for even more money that will direct more water onto that site for pretreatment,” Burton said.
The property is scheduled to be a passive park with the stormwater treatment elements acting as water features, including the possibility of walkover wooden bridges heading to the river.
“We’ll also be taking out the invasive species, mostly Brazilian pepper trees and enhancing an on-site creek to improve fish and wildlife viability,” Burton said.
During the environmental assessment, conducted by Cardno TBE, no evidence of groundwater contamination was discovered. Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said, “I’m very pleased to see this and other projects moving forward.”
The EPA estimates there are 450,000 abandoned and contaminated waste sites in America and that when cleaned up, nearby home values increase as much as 15 percent. In 2016, the EPA chose 218 brownfield projects to fund cleanup totaling $55.2 million in 131 communities across the country.
“We got lucky to get this piece of ground,” Burton said. “We should have some preliminary conceptual designs of the park’s layout soon and when it’s done, it will go from brown to green because we also plan to use solar lighting.”