Impatience vs. anticipation on Barrie Park perimeter

? After nearly six years of agonizing remediation, residents around Barrie Park are tired and weary. But the end is in sight.

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By JOHN YOO

After nearly six sluggish years of construction and soil remediation, weary residents are eagerly anticipating the opening of Barrie Park this fall and the Barrie Center on May 21.

"It's our sixth year [of construction] and going into seventh pretty soon," said Ron Martin, a resident of the area. "I have two kids, and I would like them to play in the park. ...As a parent, it's ultra-annoying that it took this long."

Martin said he is just one of the many residents who are eagerly anticipating the opening of Barrie Park.

Marion Biagi, another neighborhood resident, said streets near Barrie Park were still closed, and she did not see much work being done at the park recently.

She is planning to meet with Gail Macmillan, of the ComEd Environmental Services Department, to discuss the overall progress of the park as well as parking issues surrounding the park.

"For the last two weeks, I didn't see anything happening ... and they had beautiful weather to work with too. ... I want to know what's happening," Martin said.

Michael Grandy, superintendent of buildings and grounds for the Park District of Oak Park, also said he is not very satisfied with the pace of construction but the matter is very fragile as it involves a complicated discussion between many parties involved: the Village of Oak Park, the park district, Utility companies, Kenny Construction of Chicago, and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

According to a flier distributed by the park district recently, the park should be open to the public by fall depending on the weather conditions.

During the past six years, Barrie Park has been the center of strenuous effort on the part of numerous parties.

From 1893 to 1931, a manufactured gas plant operated on the site of Barrie Park, leaving behind byproducts that contaminated the soil. Cleanup of Barrie Park began in August 2001 under the coordinated supervision of the park district, the Village of Oak Park, ComEd and Nicor.

However, the project was halted in March 2002 after air monitors surrounding the park indicated that air quality standards for benzene would not be met without additional controls. The project continued in September after the appropriate additional measures were placed.

Ernesto Duran-Martinez, a spokesperson for ComEd, said the remediation is finally coming to an end.

"We've already received NFR [No Further Remediation] letters for two of the residential properties," he said.

NFR letters are issued by Illinois Environmental Protection Agency as an indication that the environmental standards are met.

Duran-Martinez said remediation of the remaining properties is also being finalized and the entire clean-up for Barrie Park should be completed by mid-summer.

Currently working on the park in partnership with ComEd, Kenny Construction of Chicago is in charge of the constructing the facilities. Maggie Carson, of IEPA, said the agency is anticipating a finalized environmental report very soon. The signing of the finalized report will mark the completion of the remediation process.

The renovated park will feature various recreational facilities, including a sled hill, perimeter walkway for pedestrians, play area for children, a baseball field and a soccer field.

"We understand the residents' inconvenience, and we appreciate their patience. ... We'll continue to work with the involved parties and bring closure to the project as soon as possible," Duran-Martinez said.

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