City of East Palo Alto, Calif., Cleans Toxic Dump Site to Create Nature Park

The City of East Palo Alto, Calif., together with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District will participate in a groundbreaking to clean up and restore an eighty-year old toxic burn dump to create a new 9-acre bayfront nature park.

Soil in the project area is contaminated with mercury, arsenic, polycyclic biphenyls (PCB's), lead, DDT, dioxins and a host of other chemicals.

"This community-based cleanup and redevelopment project will provide the residents of East Palo Alto with direct access to healthy, safe open space near the largest pristine wetland in San Francisco Bay,” said Jane Diamond, EPA's Superfund Division Director for the Pacific Southwest. “This coordinated investment will transform an empty, toxic dump into a precious natural resource, serving families as well as the City’s economic development goals."

Through the cleanup, the former dump will be transformed into source of community pride, serving families and the City’s jobs and economic development goals in the Ravenswood Business District.

East Palo Alto now has 16 acres of parkland (0.5 acres/1000 persons). Once Cooley Landing opens to the public, it will increase that by 72% toward the State of California’s goal of 3 acres/1000 persons. The new project will provide outdoor recreation opportunities to promote healthy lifestyles and environmental and historic education opportunities, especially for youth.

East Palo Alto Mayor Carlos Romero said, “This project is so important because we’ll actually have a place right here in our backyards where our kids can connect to nature. Ultimately, if we want to save our planet, they need to have that connection.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is providing $800,000 in Brownfields funding to remediate the site and has provided more than $2.4 M in funding to address job training and environmental contamination to the City of East Palo Alto since 1996. The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District and many other partners have also contributed to make this project possible. Funders such as the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, EPA/California Department of Toxic Substances Control, Cal Recycle, California Coastal Conservancy/San Francisco Bay Trail Project, Forest and Lands Stewardship Council, and many others have also contributed to a community planning process, permitting, design, and – now finally — cleanup.

Future phases not yet funded will renovate the site's historic wooden boat works building to create a nature and history education center that will demonstrate green technology and gather together East Palo Alto’s multicultural residents. The city also seeks funding to fulfill the community’s vision for outdoor nature and history interpretive displays and water overlooks.

The new Cooley Landing Park will support infill economic development and jobs creation in the nearby Ravenswood Business District, a former industrial area. The District’s property owner's association supports this project because it will attract future developers as an amenity for new employees and residents. It beautifies the neighborhood and shows the City’s capacity to transform this District, as it already has transformed other parts of town. It will create local jobs, reducing the need for commuting; this project will reuse existing brownfields, thus sparing pristine greenfields.

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