EPA Announces RI Grants at TPL Greenway Site

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island, 7/1/2003: U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee joined city, state, and federal officials today to celebrate $3.45 million in grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to assess, cleanup, and reuse contaminated properties, also known as brownfields, in Rhode Island.

Officials gathered at 67 Melissa Street, which contains part of a former household solid waste landfill, and is a critical link in the Woonasquatucket River Greenway, a proposed 4-mile riverside recreational trail. The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit conservation organization that has been working since 1994 to help create the greenway, owns the property, which is located in Providence’s Hartford neighborhood. The EPA awarded the Trust a grant of $200,000 to begin capping the landfill.

In addition to that grant, the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation will receive $3 million for a new revolving loan fund to help clean up and redevelop brownfields. The funds will go to clean up sites in the jurisdictions of its coalition partners in the new fund—the cities of Providence and Pawtucket, and the Rhode Island Industrial Facilities Corporation.

“This project is a wonderful example of what the brownfields initiative was meant to accomplish: reversing a legacy of pollution and neglect, and opening the door to recreation on the banks of a healthier Woonasquatucket River,” said U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), author of federal brownfields legislation that authorized these grants. “Rhode Island did very well in the competition for these grants, and I’m grateful to the EPA for all of its assistance.”

“These Brownfields grants are bringing new life to abandoned properties all across New England, especially in urban areas like Providence and the Woonasquatucket River which are teeming with redevelopment possibilities,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office. “And for every project we can keep in these downtown urban areas, we save valuable open space from new development.”

“Today’s award is a major step forward for the Woonasquatucket River Greenway. The landfill appeared to be an insurmountable obstacle for the project, and now there is light at the end of the tunnel,” said Whitney Hatch, regional director for the Trust for Public Land. “We are deeply grateful to the EPA and to Senators Chafee and Reed for their leadership and support, and we look forward to working with our Rhode Island and Providence partners to complete this important section of the Greenway.”

“We are thrilled that the EPA has provided us with funding to allow us to continue our efforts to remediate and redevelop sites that are now sitting vacant or underutilized,” said Michael McMahon, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation. “This grant will allow us to make loans and grants for projects that will have enormous economic development benefits, from the creation of jobs and housing to the growth of local tax bases.”

“Environmental restoration and economic development go hand-in-hand. This EPA funding is essential to ensuring that we leave our children jobs, parks and clean rivers rather than blighted empty lots,” United States Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) stated. “Woonsocket, Warwick, Providence and Pawtucket have all demonstrated a commitment to the revitalization of their communities and this funding will help them reclaim land lost to past industrial development.”

“The rehabilitation of sites such as these, estimated at over 450,000 nationwide, is essential to maintain a vibrant urban life and to prevent new growth from expanding to urban fringes, suburbs, and undeveloped land,” said Congressman James Langevin (D-RI). “Because Rhode Island’s cities and towns greatly benefit from the brownfields program, I have strongly supported it throughout my tenure in Congress.”

Providence Mayor David Cicilline said, “The City of Providence is pleased that the EPA has funded TPL’s project at 67 Melissa Street. We have been partners with TPL and EPA for many years and look forward to continuing our work together on the Woonasquatucket River Greenway project.”

The Providence Department of Planning and Development and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management have been important partners in the effort to clean up the Melissa Street site. Their commitment to the project is just one example of their efforts, in cooperation with the Providence Department of Public Parks, Rhode Island Department Transportation, Woonasquatucket River Watershed Association, the Trust for Public Land, the Providence Plan, and community-based organizations, to create the Woonasquatucket River Greenway. When completed, the Greenway will provide new opportunities for biking, walking, and enjoying views of the river from Waterplace Park downtown through Manton, Hartford, and Onleyville to the western city limits.

The EPA also awarded two other brownfield grants in Rhode Island:
1) the City of Warwick will receive $150,000 to inventory petroleum-contaminated properties in the Warwick Station Redevelopment District near T.F. Green Airport, and
2) The City of Woonsocket will receive $103,000 to prepare an inventory of brownfields, perform environmental assessments, and plan for redevelopment of various sites throughout the city.

EPA’s brownfields grants program was created through legislation authored by Senator Chafee, who is chairman of the Senate Superfund Subcommittee with jurisdiction over brownfields, which was signed into law by President Bush in 2002. The legislation provided increased funding for brownfields cleanup and included important liability relief for those involved in redeveloping brownfield sites. Senator Reed, as a member of the appropriations committee in the last Congress, was a strong supporter of fully funding this program.

The grants are among $73 million that have been earmarked for brownfield projects across the nation by EPA’s departing administrator Christine Todd Whitman. The Brownfields Program is designed to empower states, communities and other stakeholders in economic development to work together to prevent, assess, safely clean up and sustainably reuse brownfields.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit conservation organization conserving land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 1.6 million acres of land in 45 states, including nearly 150,000 acres in New England. TPL depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. For more information, visit www.tpl.org/rhodeisland.