Trash To Treasure

As it turns out, the City of Orange landfill held all types of solid waste, construction debris and municipal waste. It was covered with soil and closed in 1957. The detailed analysis of the site’s soil (including analysis of water contamination, gas leakage and other environmental concerns) revealed a reclaimable site.

So, in 2005, park development began. Like its predecessor in Virginia Beach, the plan called for, among other items, a heavy layer of soil to be laid on the site.

The work is ongoing and nearing completion. Soon, the site will be without a fence and ready for the familiar ring of “Play ball!”

How And Where To Get Funding

Since the 2002 “brownfield” act was signed into law by President Bush, finding funds to revitalize underused, abandoned or contaminated properties has become much easier.

Technically, the Brownfield Economic Redevelopment Initiative is designed to empower states, communities and other stakeholders in economic redevelopment to work together in a timely manner to assess, safely clean up, and sustain reusable brownfields.

The EPA is funding assessment demonstration pilot programs (each funded up to $200,000 over two years), to assess brownfield sites and to test cleanup and redevelopment models. It also provides job training pilot programs (each funded up to $200,000 over two years), to provide training for residents of communities affected by brownfields to facilitate cleanup of the sites and prepare trainees for future employment in the environmental field. In addition, it offers cleanup revolving loan fund programs (each funded up to $500,000 over five years) to capitalize loan funds for the environmental cleanup of worthy sites.

These pilot programs are intended to provide the EPA, states, tribes, municipalities and communities with useful information and strategies as they continue to seek new methods to promote a unified approach to site assessment, environmental cleanup and redevelopment. The EPA’s Brownfields program encourages the revitalization of America’s estimated 450,000 problem properties to productive community use.

Since the beginning of the program, the EPA has awarded 883 assessment grants totaling $225.4 million, 202 revolving loan and grants totaling $186.7 million and cleanup grants totaling $42.7 million.

For information on the December 20, 2006, Brownfields Tax Incentive Extended and Expanded guidelines visit: Brownfield’s Tax Incentive Page. For more information about the EPA Brownfield Incentive Program, visit: www.epa.gov

Other Funding Sources

Other funding programs may be particular to individual states. Check your state government Web site for more information. For example, in Ohio, the “Clean Ohio Fund” and “Trails Program” provide money, advice and support for revitalizing qualified property. Virginia’s Mt. Trashmore was created too early to receive EPA funding. Its help came from an initial grant of $192,674 from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and a matching fund from the Solid Waste Disposal Act. Maybe these avenues will work for your project.

It Takes A Team

If you are interested in turning an abandoned, trashy or contaminated parcel of land into a treasure, you will need help. Money, advice and volunteers are essential building blocks for a successful project. Many cities combine local, state and federal government grants with funds from private companies, organizations and individual contributors.

“It feels so good to know that I’m contributing to something that works for a community as a result of collaborative relationships,” says Carolyn J. Douglas, Regional Brownfields Coordinator and Team Leader for US EPA Region 9. “EPA funding can be a catalyst to make it happen.”

The trick is, before treasure is found, someone must be looking for it. Someone must see an eyesore for what it could be. Someone must go to his or her city government and say, “I see a park where there’s now only a dump.”

And, when that vision is spread to a team of dedicated believers, trash will be transformed into treasure.

Melanie Minch is a freelance writer in Medina, Ohio. She can be reached via e-mail at gardens@zoominternet.net.

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