Quakertown Superfund site becomes "last piece of parks puzzle"
The long, agonizing journey from foundry to Superfund site to $2 million municipal park took a big step forward last week.
As a cold, steady rain fell Friday morning, about two dozen government and business leaders from Quakertown huddled under a tent on the former Krupp site at Fourth and Mill streets to turn over the first of what promises to be thousands of tons of dirt.
Borough Manager Scott McElree said he still hopes “to take shovel to ground” later this month so that much of the work scheduled for Phase One, which includes stormwater management control, paving of the parking lot, and the some walking trails – can be completed before winter weather sets in.
Considering its proximity to Memorial Park, Panther Playground, and the swimming complex, Council President Jim Roberts called it “the last piece of the park puzzle.” The ceremonial groundbreaking, he said, “is symbolic of the progress to come.”
The passive recreation park will be built on 12 acres of borough-owned land. The centerpiece of the development will be a permanent amphitheater with a tiered lawn seating area. Other planned amenities include public restrooms, handicap-accessible pathways, lighting, landscaping, trees, and flower gardens
Officials are hoping the amphitheater will become a regional attraction, with live music concerts, films, and summer stock type live plays and theater events.
“It’s an exciting adventure for the borough,” McElree said.
A long and frustrating one, too. When finally constructed, the park will complete a nearly quarter-century saga. Acquired by the borough in 1988 for $750,000 and slated to become home to a postal facility, the property was found to be contaminated with the remnants of its industrial legacy: heavy metals, including cadmium, lead and zinc.
A $3 million environmental cleanup by the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection that was completed in 2000 began the search for a proper use of the property, the last significant piece of open space in the borough.
Since then, various uses have been proposed, including senior housing and a new facility for the Upper Bucks YMCA. But the only development that occurred was construction of the James Michener Branch of the Bucks County Free Library.
So far, the borough has about half of the project’s total cost covered through grants and pledges, including $332,000 from a Bucks County Open Space Grant and about $80,000 left over from the Sesquicentennial Celebration.
The borough is waiting to hear about a $250,000 grant it applied for from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and recently applied to the Department of Community and Economic Development for another $250,000.
Naming right for the park itself and the amphitheater could bring in another $700,000, McElree said.
Iveta Gicova, whose company, Native American Nursery, is donating $25,000 work of in-kind landscaping services, urged more members of the community to support the project.
“I hope that the rest of the community feels just as inspired as we do,” said Grigova. “Continue to contribute so we can build this park to its full potential.”
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