Brownfields programs spark reinvestment in Beaverton park
Restoration work will transform a former gas station lot into green space at Beaverton's Eichler Park.
The transformation comes through the successful partnership between Metro, the Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District, Business Oregon and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. The brownfield cleanup will add two-thirds of an acre to the park.
After the earlier demolition of a Texaco fuel center on the northeast corner of the park, officials at the Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District saw an opportunity to expand the park. Officials were aware of environmental issues on the property but were not sure of the extent and exact nature of the contamination. Going from soiled ground to playground would require major steps – and funding – before families could enjoy the space.
The project plans would include an assessment of the site’s contamination, a restoration plan, the purchase of the land, and the cleanup.
Metro's Brownfields Recycling Program was a great starting point for the park district.
Funds from the brownfields program, provided through grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, are awarded to sites that sit undeveloped because of real or perceived petroleum-based contamination. In 2008, the park district was awarded funding from Metro for the first step of the process: assessing the land's environmental hazards.
After comprehensive sampling, an assessment team discovered around a third of the soil, including some groundwater, tested unsafe for public use. Worse, an abandoned fuel tank had been neglected below ground.
With the tank removed as part of the assessment, Metro and its consultants developed a cleanup plan for the park district to present to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Metro also encouraged the park district to apply for cleanup funds with the state.
"Investing in the cleanup of brownfields helps us make the most of what we have in our region," said Metro Council President Tom Hughes. "A limited amount of public funds goes a long way toward enabling the cleanup and redevelopment of these sites. In this case, we have a unique opportunity to create a new community asset out of abandoned property."
Using some of its local share funding from Metro’s 2006 Natural Areas bond measure, the park district acquired the land in June. A prospective purchaser agreement with the Department of Environmental Quality, which allows new owners to lessen the risk of buying previously contaminated properties, requires the park district to perform a cleanup of the property. The DEQ will oversee restoration at the site.
"This has been a challenging acquisition for THPRD due to the environmental complications," said Hal Bergsma, director of planning for the park district. "It would not have been possible without the assistance provided by Metro staff in overcoming the financial and legal obstacles, including help in applying for the grants to pay for site assessment and clean-up."
The work includes replacing several hundred cubic feet of contaminated soil. Once a contractor is selected, cleanup could take as little as two weeks. Business Oregon partnered with the park district to leverage around $126,000 for the work through its Oregon Coalition Brownfields Cleanup fund.
Soil testing will be performed after the cleanup to ensure the land is safe for public use. Park officials are considering different options for use of the site and will engage the public for ideas.
Eichler Park, located at 13710 SW Farmington Road in Beaverton, currently features play equipment, a community garden, basketball court, dirt bicycle course, and an ADA-accessible walking path.