Thursday, April 15, 2010

Local Issue

There’s a local park, Bernhart’s, that’s been closed since 1996 due to lead contamination from a nearby battery manufacturer. In 2000, the EPA ordered the current owner, Exide, to do a massive cleanup – 200 yards in the surrounding neighborhood plus the park. It’s taken until last week for Exide to come up with what I think is an unacceptable proposal. They only want to remove the lead from certain parts of the 25 acre park which includes a lake with a dam. There is a semi-steep wooded section that they think only needs a wandering clean path at the bottom of the hill. Also, they only want to deal with a portion of the dam instead of the whole thing. That make any sense to you? It doesn’t to me.

I grew up at Bernhart’s. It’s the only place I ever remember going for cookouts with other families. When I was a kid there were huge trees, benches, picnic tables everywhere, two sided glider swings, stone water fountains, stone fire places and a second, smaller pond with a really cool bridge where it flowed into the main lake.

I went for a walk there last weekend. Yes, I kept my shoes on so I didn’t absorb any lead, didn’t drink any water or catch any fish. Hmm, did all those things as a kid as the park was being contaminated though. Perhaps that explains some things. But as I was saying, I wandered around. The upper pond is reverted to nature with a three-branched stream running through it. The beautiful London plane trees are mostly dead. They seem to have suffered more than the other varieties which didn’t look all that healthy either. Now I know trees age and need care but this was different. Even the younger trees seemed sad somehow. The bridge is gone. The wall that used to lead up to it is deteriorated tremendously. And the benches are being claimed, moss on the stone, wood slats rotted and missing, trees and vines growing up through them.

The city, which owns the park, is hoping, once the EPA is satisfied with the cleanup, to reopen the park. The mayor strongly opposes the partial lead removal. He’s realistic about this one. He says kids will climb all over everywhere once the park is open again. Um, yep. I sure did as a kid even though the bank was steep. He also doesn’t want the lake to be catch and release only which it will need to be with a partial cleanup. And there’s concern from the mayor and city council about whether or not people will actually return which makes sense.

Personally, I hope they do make Exide remove all the lead even though the contamination occurred before they took over the battery company. Hanging out at Bernhart’s is one of the few fond childhood memories I have and I’d like to see future generations of kids enjoy it too.

1 comment:

Bronwyn Green said...

A partial clean-up? Seriously? That makes me want to bang my head against a wall...or someone else's head. Perhaps the idiot(s) responsible for this idiocy.

Kids are going run and jump, climb and explore - everywhere! That's what they do. And what about the animals?

I agree - those trees look really sad.