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'Brownfields to Playfields' in Underserved Communities Recognized
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 09/13/2017

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Tuesday received the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) 2017 State Program Innovation Award for its "Brownfields to Playfields" Pilot Program to transform seven sites of old industrial blight into outdoor recreation spaces in underserved communities.

DEP, along with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), created the pilot program to meet one of the resource management and stewardship goals in the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan.

"Smaller and economically disadvantaged communities get a boost from the synergy of interagency collaboration in tackling the hefty challenge of transforming industrial blight that otherwise might persist for decades," said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. "When partners envision transformation together, innovation results."

Each project receives a needs assessment; help in identifying appropriate assistance programs; education on sources and leveraging of funding; and streamlined coordination between state agencies, local governments, federal programs, and private partners.

A recent House Republican plan to cut funding from agencies' dedicated sources could jeopardize some of these projects. "If there are cuts to DCED's brownfields cleanup/assessment funds, projects like these around the state could fall through," said Secretary McDonnell, "setting back communities who aspire to a better quality of life without legacy industrial blight."

The projects will transform a total of 40 acres of former industrial lands:

- Ira Reynolds Riverfront Park in Susquehanna Depot, Susquehanna County--Cleaning up a contaminated former Erie rail yard and creating a community park with walking trails and a pavilion.

- Kaiers Playground, Mahanoy City Borough, Schuylkill County--Demolishing a dilapidated five-story brewery and turning it into a community playground.

- Fairground Avenue Linear Park, Carlisle, Cumberland County--Redeveloping a former carpet manufacturing site into a park with walking/biking trails and a green stormwater management system to facilitate Carlisle's Chesapeake Bay Pollutant Reduction Plan, coinciding with plans for adjacent shopping, dining, and residential mixed-use development.

- Susquehanna River Walk Extension, Williamsport, Lycoming County--Designing and engineering a three-mile extension of the trail through an old landfill site and past brownfield sites to connect with other walking/biking trails and neighborhoods.

- Lower Broadway Recreation Complex, Nanticoke, Luzerne County--Transforming land adjacent to a former manufactured gas plant into a park with athletic fields, a playground, walking trails, a skateboard park, and marsh overlook.

- Waterfront Park, Charleroi, Washington County--Redeveloping a former stadium and glass factory into a recreation complex on the Monongahela River.

- Elrama Neighborhood Park, Union Township, Washington County--Redeveloping a former chrome shop into a public park.

The ECOS award honors innovative approaches by state environmental agencies in addressing community concerns, improving relationships between agencies and regulated entities, and returning land to productive use.

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