Cleanup fears put brakes on Kenai sports complex proposal

Posted: Sunday, December 22, 2002

KENAI (AP) -- Plans for a 24-acre sports complex on a former landfill site are on hold because of fears that developing the area will trigger a massive cleanup effort.

The Kenai Parks and Recreation Commission has spent two years planning the complex, which would include baseball fields, soccer fields and a BMX bike track.

''It would be expansive development that can take care of the city's recreational needs for the future,'' said Dale Sandahl, Kenai Parks and Recreation Commission member.

The area selected is in a clearing of beetle-killed trees along the Kenai Spur Highway north of the city.

The area was used as the city's dump 30 years ago, and that is causing concern for other city officials.

''Materials were dumped there indiscriminately,'' said Kenai Mayor John Williams. ''... God knows what. There were no controls whatsoever in those days, going back 30 years now or so.''

The city is reluctant to allow the project at the site because they fear it will trigger a massive cleanup effort.

Commission members attended a city council meeting Wednesday and were told they might not be able to use the site. Carey Graves, attorney for the city, explained the dilemma to commissioners.

''If we excavate the site and discover contaminated materials and report that to (the Department of Environmental Conservation), then they can say, 'Thank you very much, now clean it up,''' he said.

Cleaning the site would come at a ''phenomenal'' cost to the city, Graves said.

Commissioners were told it may be possible to add fill to the site and build the sports complex on top of the landfill without disturbing the area below.

''We're not saying you can't use a site, we're saying we have to develop it carefully in a manner that doesn't trigger cleanup,'' Graves said.

The council put off making a decision about the area until more information is gathered. Graves said he plans to attend a class in ground field redevelopment in January and will report his findings back to the council.

The city administration also will look into Environmental Protection Agency rules pertaining to ground field redevelopment and obtain DEC's opinion on the matter.

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