Cleveland residents concerned about future of contaminated neighborhood park

Residents want input on park cleanup

CLEVELAND - Residents living around W.C. Reed Playfield in Cleveland are worried about the future their neighborhood park.

The park was closed by the city of Cleveland in November because of soil contamination. It's a case now being handled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but residents said they've had very little input as to how the park will be cleaned up.

Members of the Southwest Citizens Council contacted NewsChannel5 hoping we could get them more answers as to how the park will be cleaned and renovated in the coming months.

Residents like John Baran, who's family has lived near the park since 1924, are worried an overly aggressive cleanup will do more harm than good.

"They want to scorch the earth, remove the trees and remove all the vegetation in the neighborhood," Baran said. "The vegetation and the trees cleanse the soil. Is that correct approach, should the city and the EPA handle it that way?"

Baran told NewsChannel5 residents are being left out of the loop and are being given very little information from the EPA on how the cleanup will be handled.

Ward 3 Cleveland Councilman Joe Cimperman agrees.

"The last meeting that was held and I wasn't even told about it," Cimperman said. "I really feel this should be a city-led project, and many of the trees at the park should be preserved and not removed."

Residents report the 12.5 acre park was built on a landfill that was used for the dumping of industrial debris in the 1940s and 50s. Residents told NewsChannel5 the city was set to renovate the park, but discovered soil contamination when it took a series of core samples in 2012.

Cimperman confirmed the city has set aside $350,000 to renovate the park, but with a $2 million EPA cleanup looming, residents are wondering what will be taken out during the cleanup.

Baran is concerned opening up the landfill and moving tons of soil will create more health risks.

"It's been capped, why open it? Why permit these toxins to become airborne, and possibly effect the health of these residents that live in these neighborhoods," Baran said.

NewsChannel5 contacted the EPA Region 5 office in Chicago in the search for information. We asked if there will be yet another public meeting concerning the cleanup at W.C. Reed Playfield and whether residents would be allowed to have input into the clean-up process.

The US EPA responded, it told 5 On Your Side it will save several large trees on the park property, and it will not move forward with the project until it meets with the residents to discuss clean-up options.

Meanwhile, residents are hoping the park can be cleaned with minimal damage to the trees and landscape.

"We just want more information on the cleanup plan," said resident Gloria Ferris. "We want them to save our trees. Fifty to 70-year-old trees that will be coming down and replaced with 2-inch saplings?"

Residents are so involved with the preservation of W.C. Reed Playfield, they have set-up this website on the subject.

NewsChannel5 and newsnet5.com will keep you updated on this developing story as soon as information become s available.

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