It hasn’t been too many years since the village of Oak Park saved the houses and property values of many homes around Barrie Park.

Barrie Park was the scene of a Superfund contamination project; carcinogenic coal tar had been left in concrete containers that leaked and were buried in the park. When these were discovered, the entire neighborhood was in jeopardy and could have ended up like the Love Canal (remember?). That never happened. Instead, all the dirt in Barrie Park was dug up — it became a huge hole. All the existing trees were cut down. The dirt was removed in huge trucks down Garfield Street to be processed in Canada where the pollutant was somehow removed. Nicor and ComEd paid for this. Barrie Park had a huge tent over it so the contaminated dirt would not blow around.

We neighbors had our properties tested by having deep soil samples cored out of the ground. Some neighbors had to have their entire property remediated, i.e. dug up, front and back. Some neighbors were temporarily relocated at no expense (one went to Holly Court). Some were luckier, like us, and we lost only some flowers (they were replaced) alongside the house. We all finally received official “Our property is no longer contaminated” letters so that years later we could sell our property and houses without trouble.

Oh I forgot, the village established an unbelievable project which many of us participated in called the loan grant project. The homeowner could get a loan of up to $15,000 from the village which would then give the homeowner a grant (taxes did have to be paid) of a matching $15,000. When it came time to pay the loan back to the village, the village took practically zero interest. You can imagine the work involved in village employees approving all these individual projects and issuing checks. People who don’t live in Oak Park turn green with envy when they realize Barrie Park residents could have up to $30,000 to invest in their homes. The village approved the proposals but they were each very individually done, depending on what the homeowner needed.

All this was done using lawyers from downtown Chicago. (Some residents did sue separately, depending on their circumstances.)

The village of Oak Park saved our homes and we are more than grateful. Where else would such a project happen but in Oak Park?

Joanne Selden

Oak Park

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