Feds send funds to clean up riverfront site

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June 6, 2005 // UPDATED 1:55 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

The federal government has given the Minneapolis park system $200,000 to clean up the B.F. Nelson site next to Boom Island on the Downtown riverfront, the first step in long-stalled efforts to upgrade the area into prairie-and-wetland park.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board got the 12-acre site east of Nicollet Island in 1986 and created a master plan in 1993. It remains undeveloped because of industrial contamination, notably buried asphalt.

Park Planner Rachel Ramadhyani announced in late May that the Park Board had received the cleanup grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It will cover most of the estimated $267,000 cost.

The Park Board can then go to work on its $4.6 million master plan, which includes an interpretive center, lighting, plantings, parking and vehicle access, a wildlife overlook and a canoe landing, according to its Web site.

The EPA grant "means everything," Ramadhyani said. "Until we got that site cleaned up, nothing could go forward. Finding cleanup money is the hardest thing."

The site has a rich history. In the mid-1800s, it was part of the original Town of St. Anthony. At various times, the area boasted a settlement house, sawmills, warehouses and the B. F. Nelson company, which had a roofing products manufacturing complex from 1912 to 1952.

The state Department of Transportation got the site in the early 1970s, anticipating a new freeway through that area. It instead chose a different interstate route, and the Park Board got the land.

While the asphalt is at shallow depths, state analysis said there is no immediate threat to human health, a Park Board summary said. The plan would cover the area with clean topsoil.

Ramadhyani said work on the site probably would begin next spring, but would not take long to complete. The Park Board has other grant applications to raise matching money.

The Park Board also has sent a $600,000 grant request to the Metropolitan Parks Open Space Commission to begin work on park improvements, she said. It has an $800,000 grant application with the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization.

For more on the B.F. Nelson site, see: www.minneapolisparks.org/default.asp?PageID=894.