Olsson Associates

Articles

Brownfields: A catalyst for community redevelopment

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Angie Przybylo, Marketing

Several rural communities in Kansas witnessed industrial buildup in the early 20th century but in many cases have witnessed decline over the past few years.  Many historically important industries have consolidated and either moved locations or built new facilities. Some industries have gone out of business altogether and vacated their structures. Additionally, the railroad industry that once connected many of the thriving towns in Kansas has abandoned many of its local rail lines. Many of these developments have left a legacy of environmental contamination.

Coffeyville, too, has a similar legacy. Located in southeastern Kansas and with a current population of 11,021, the city of Coffeyville grew during the late 19th century as a trading and grain milling center. In the early 20th century, its growth continued as an industrial city. Since the 1960s, however, the city population has decreased as industry has declined. Near a former industrial site, once the home of one of Coffeyville’s leading companies, a rail line was operated from the 1800s until 1982, but has since been abandoned. This former rail line is contaminated with high concentrations of metals such as lead and arsenic.

Coffeyville was among 171 communities nationwide that received funding through the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Brownfields grant program in 2014. The city received three grants of $200,000 each—two grants to assess the potential for impacts from hazardous substances and petroleum products, and a cleanup grant that will enable remediation of the former rail line as the nucleus of a planned community-wide bicycle trail system. The city retained Olsson Associates to provide technical support for the Brownfields projects. The larger project is to ultimately link several parks in the community with biking/pedestrian paths – a desire expressed during community visioning meetings conducted for the Coffeyville Community Plan.

For Phase I, Olsson designed the remediation of the metals contamination, converting the former rail line into a bicycle trail. When Phase 1 of the project is complete, new funding will be obtained after the community reaches a consensus on a design for further expansion of the trail system.

Brownfields funds are designed to address environmental issues that prevent economic redevelopment. The goal is to restore environmentally challenged properties to productive use. Historically, Brownfields funding has been awarded to urban communities, despite the fact that small and rural communities are eligible.

This project is a perfect example of how a rural Kansas community was able to apply for and receive Brownfields grant money to assist in community revitalization. Once cleanup initiatives have been taken and the EPA sees progress through their funding, doors will open for the city to receive other funding mechanisms to improve their community. Some grant opportunities in Kansas include Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) Transportation Alternatives Program, Sunflower Foundation Grants, HUD Grants, FTA Grants, Smart Growth Grants, and Partnership for Sustainable Communities Grants. Additionally, many community groups are eager to invest once they witness initial progress.

It's true that urban communities obtain a large portion of Brownfields grant money; many times, this is because smaller communities are not aware that they, too, are eligible for these grants. Olsson Associates can help your community in several ways. We can help you apply for Brownfields grants, we can help you administer the grant, and we can provide planning and design services to help your community make the most of the grant money. If you are interested in applying this model to your community, please contact Ted Hartsig or Ed Hubert at 913.381.1170.

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