The federal Environmental Protection Agency has awarded Oklahoma City a grant that will free up more money for the city to spend on the MAPS 3 Core to Shore park.
The EPA grant of $350,000 is for environmental assessment work the city has to conduct on the site of the 70-acre park, which will extend from the south end of downtown Oklahoma City to the north shore of the Oklahoma River.
Without the grant, the city would have had to pay for the assessments with MAPS money. City officials now can save that $350,000 for another use on the parks project.
The grant is for cities that are developing so-called brownfields sites. Brownfields are plots of land that could be contaminated because of previous activities.
Many of the parcels the city has bought and will buy before work begins on the downtown park were used by industrial businesses since before World War II, and many hazardous substances could be left behind.
“That was before environmental regulations existed and before we cared about what we threw on the ground and knew enough to have those concerns,” said Chris Varga, brownfields coordinator for the city Planning Department. “When
Some businesses still operating in the area could be contributing to the contamination. An automobile salvage yard is within the park's footprint, and the rusting, junked cars likely are dripping fluids into the ground.
The assessments paid for by the grant will show the city what it faces with environmental cleanup work as the park project gets moving.
“It will identify some problem areas, and there are a number of options depending on what you find and what concentrations (of hazardous substances) you find,” Varga said. “Some areas we may need to do nothing at all; some we may need to cover with clean soils, or move some contamination.”