Irondale Beach Park reopening ceremony set Thursday

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

IRONDALE — A fourth-grader will cut the ribbon during the grand reopening of Irondale Beach County Park at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

The reopening ceremony at the park at 526 Moore St. in Irondale will cap a cleanup and restoration effort that has been in the works in some form since 2007.

The park had been closed while the state Department of Ecology cleaned the former Irondale Iron and Steel site of petroleum hydrocarbons and metals

Fox Elder, a 9-year-old fourth-grader at Chimacum Elementary School who has done service projects at the park since he was 4 years old, will be on hand to cut the opening ribbon for the park, said Matt Tyler, manager of Jefferson County Parks and Recreation.

Fox and his parents are members of Friends of Chimacum Creek, a volunteer group that has adopted the park and will be responsible for maintaining it, Tyler added.

Jefferson County Commissioners John Austin and Phil Johnson will speak about the park, Tyler said, and members of the Jefferson County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, county parks and recreation staff and a former owner of the property also plan to attend.

Representatives of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, which owns the northern portion of the park, and Ecology will be in attendance to answer questions about the park’s cleanup and restoration, Tyler explained.

“The Department of Ecology has been absolutely fantastic to work with,” Tyler said.

Ecology managed the planning and cleanup for the 12-acre park with $2 million in funding through the Puget Sound Initiative, a joint effort by numerous partners, including all levels of government and private businesses, to restore the health of Puget Sound.

Ecology’s work included removing contaminated sand and sediment, creating new beaches on the southernmost tip of the park with clean fill material and installing a soil cover in the wooded upland areas of the park to prevent exposure to contaminated soil remaining on the site.

“It’s absolutely beautiful,” Tyler said.

“The people are just going to be amazed when they see it.”

The North Olympic Salmon Coalition also was involved in cleaning up and restoring the park, Tyler said.

Ecology staff members decided the park must be cleaned of toxic residue and contaminants in 2005 after a park visitor discovered an oily residue on the beach.

Ecology determined the park, purchased by Jefferson County in 2001, contained contaminants left over from when the Irondale Iron and Steel mill operated on the property from 1881 to 1919.

Steel plant operations during those 38 years contaminated soil, sediment and ground water, and also left slag, a by-product of the steel smelting process.

The property changed hands several times from 1919 to 2001, but no further contamination was created, according to Ecology.

Most recently before Jefferson County bought the park, a nearby wood-chipping facility used the property as a log-storage yard.

Ecology officials initially determined the site was safe in 2001 after the county bought it but later decided cleanup was necessary after the 2005 discovery of the oily substance on the beach.

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 22. 2013 5:57PM
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