ARRA funds at work in Ashland park site cleanup

This morning I visited a site in unincorporated Ashland where American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money is paying for the environmental cleanup of a former fuel depot that’s being converted into a park and youth center.

The roughly two-acre “Ashland Youth Campus” site along East 14th Street at 163rd Avenue has mostly lain fallow, but for some sporadic used-car sales, since the fuel depot owned by Jack Holland closed in 1998; the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District has had its eyes on it for a long time, but only managed to buy the plot out of probate last year in partnership with the Alameda County Community Development Agency, according to HARD Park Superintendent Larry Lepore.

But underground fuel tanks have leaked into the soil there, meaning there was costly environmental remediation to do before the land could be used for anything; Lepore said Holland’s estate had no money to cover the costs, and so the land became what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calls an “orphan site” with no financially responsible party left to pay.

ARRA contained a $200 million allocation to the EPA for underground storage tank cleanups, and California’s State Water Resources Control Board won a $15.6 million chunk of that. The Holland Oil tract remediation is the first project to proceed, with $180,000 of that money. The air was redolent of fuel today as a grinder removed the top foot or so of soil, and a digger excavated a particularly polluted spot to about 10 feet down.

Once the cleanup is completed, construction can begin. Lepore said HARD should have final plans for Holland Park completed this month and the project should go to bid in October, with work to begin as early as January with a target opening date next May. Construction on the Ashland Youth Center will start later on, targeted for opening in 2012.

About half a dozen workers from Berkeley-based contractor O.C. Jones & Sons Inc. were on site today, but Judy Reid – underground storage tank program administrator for the State Water Resources Control Board – noted more jobs will be created during construction, and more yet for maintenance and management of the facility once it’s done.

“We are so happy to see this happen on this site – it’s been empty for so long,” said Darryl Stewart, community liaison for Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley. Eileen Dalton, redevelopment director with the Alameda County Community Development Agency, called it “the biggest, newest, greatest thing that’s going to happen in Ashland” in recent memory.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.