WELLINGTON, Carbon County — A patch of ground that was once home to an abandoned coal processing plant will soon become a 30-acre city park, thanks to a partnership teaming the federal government, two state agencies and the city of Wellington.
"We're excited that they're getting started," said Wellington Mayor Ben Blackburn. "It's taken a long time to get all the approvals."
The city was approached by the state Division of Oil, Gas and Mining more than two years ago about a project to reclaim the land where the Knight-Ideal coal loadout facility once stood. The plant was abandoned in the 1950s, and an initial attempt to remediate the site took place 30 years later.
The city owns the property now, and was asked by the state what its vision for the land was once it was cleaned up.
"Recreation is important to us," Blackburn said of the decision to build a park on the site.
"Yes, it doesn't make any money, but it makes something for the kids to do and that's what we're after," the mayor said.
Long-term plans for the park include a pond that the state Division of Wildlife Resources will stock with fish, a skate park, a walking path, an ATV trail head with parking for trailers, and two baseball fields.
"We have a pretty good Little League and T-ball program here," Blackburn said. "We could really use the extra ballparks."
Chris Rohrer, senior reclamation specialist with the state's Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program, is in charge of the million-dollar project to clean up the Knight-Ideal site.
"It's one of the largest projects we've done in terms of dollar amount and the footprint of the project," he said.
The U.S. Office of Surface Mining provided the bulk of the money from a federal trust account that is funded by the coal industry, Rohrer said. The city, the DWR and the state Division of Oil, Gas and Mining have also committed funds to the project.
Crews plan to bury about 90 percent of the coal found at the site in engineered landfill cells. The remaining 10 percent of the coal "we're going to salvage and separate out and use for its energy values," Rohrer said.
In addition to the cleanup, the project includes the engineering work for the park and some of the dirt work as well. It does not include building the park for the city, though, Rohrer said.
"What we're doing is building a foundation that the city can build their park on," he said.
Most of the reclamation work at the site is expected to be complete by the end of the year. After that, the city plans to build the park in phases.
"A lot of it we plan on doing with volunteers," Blackburn said. "We have great volunteers here."