EPA awards $800,000 to support cleanup of Origin Park site

May 25—CLARKSVILLE — A grant from the Environmental Protection Agency will boost the development of Origin Park in Clarksville.

On Thursday, the EPA announced the recipients of Brownfields grants to help with the cleanup of polluted sites. River Heritage Conservancy (RHC), the nonprofit developing the 430-acre park, is receiving an $800,000 multipurpose grant from the program.

RHC Executive Director Susan Rademacher said the grant is significant on "several levels" for Origin Park.

"This EPA award to River Heritage Conservancy is a real milestone for the park and the organization because it's the first time that our nonprofit has received direct funding from the EPA to help heal this industrial site," she said. "Some important previous work has been done under funding by other agencies such as the Town Of Clarksville, but this is the first time that the conversancy has received these [federal] funds directly."

The next steps will involve working with an environmental consultant to create a work plan for using the funds. The plan will then be submitted to the EPA for approval.

A large portion of the future park is considered a brownfield, or a former industrial or commercial site in need of cleanup due to pollution.

"There has been a lot of industrial use there throughout the site, and that industrial use leaves things behind which aren't always healthy and need to be addressed," Rademacher said. "So that's a critical step in making a park that's a healthy place for people [and] to heal the landscape."

Several sites at the future Origin Park have faced "some level of investigation and some level of cleanups," she said.

"There was an auto junkyard on Brown Station Way near Silver Creek that has been mostly cleaned up," Rademacher said. "There's still a little more work to do there. There's the Red Ball [Recycling] property [that] we recently acquired, which will require work. There are landfills and junkyards...there are lots of places, and we want to make sure that we use these funds strategically to help unlock the park's potential."

Across the country, the EPA awarded a total of 267 grants adding up to $215 million, according to an EPA news release. The Brownfield grant program is part of President Joe Biden's $315 million Investing in America Agenda.

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said in the EPA news release that the national investment is an effort to "revitalize what were once dangerous and polluted sites in overburdened communities into more sustainable and environmentally just places that serve as community assets."

"Thanks to President Biden's historic investments in America, we're moving further and faster than ever before to clean up contaminated sites, spur economic redevelopment, and deliver relief that so many communities have been waiting for," Regan said. "This critical wave of investments is the largest in Brownfields history and will accelerate our work to protect the people and the planet by transforming what was once blight into might."

Earlier this month, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed the state budget that includes a $37.5 million grant to create an outdoor adventure center in Origin Park.

In April, RHC celebrated the opening of the Croghan Landing paddle launch on Silver Creek, which was the first project of Origin Park.

Recent support for the park, including the state and federal appropriations, serves as "just one more statement about the significance of this park effort to our region," Rademacher said.

"This is a landscape worth reclaiming," she said.