Brownfields: Sowing Seeds of Change

July 11, 2018


Terracon’s Brownfield professionals play a pivotal role in nurturing redevelopment throughout communities across the country.

The first thing that comes to mind when hearing “brownfield” is often a broken canister of green ooze that has the chemical properties to turn small turtles into crime fighting machines. In actuality, a brownfield site should be seen as a great opportunity to enhance any community, and that is exactly what recently happened in Flagler County, Florida.

From Brownfields to Green Fields

In the fall of 2013, the Flagler Economic Enhancement District (FEED), comprised of the City of Bunnell, City of Palm Coast, and Flagler County, through the Department of Economic Opportunity, won a $600,000 Community Wide Brownfield Assessment Grant. The coalition chose Terracon, as the environmental consultant to implement the grant. With the help of Contract Manager Brad Tompa, P.G., they selected sites which showed the greatest potential for redevelopment.

More than 250 sites were identified as possibilities. Out of that list of properties, assessment activities were conducted on 93 individual parcels totaling 2,538 acres. This assessment grant was considered a huge success and as a result, 64 new jobs, eight new businesses, and one new greenspace was created during the life of the grant.

Planting Seeds of Hope

Although the creation of jobs and the addition of new businesses to the area is a grand accomplishment for this coalition, one of the biggest impacts of this project is the improvement in the quality of life for the community residents.

When determining sites for the assessment grant, one particular parcel owned by the Flagler County Public Housing Authority had considerable redevelopment potential. The Housing Authority is responsible for several communities, the primary consisting of more than 500 residents of low-to-moderate-income living in 132 units and two additional, yet smaller communities, within walking distance. Located at the heart of the community, this parcel was used to house above ground propane tanks situated on cradles. Several years prior to the grant, the tanks had been removed when the housing authority switched to natural gas, but the cradles remained, “creating a menacing site, reminiscent of a graveyard full of unmarked headstones,” as noted by several residents. Grant funds along with additional leveraging were used to assess the site for any possible contamination, remove the cradles, and prepare the site to make way for the HOPE (Helping Others Provide Encouragement) community garden.

The HOPE Garden launched a community-wide initiative which included students, businesses, community groups and leaders all working together to build raised garden beds, plant seedlings, and cultivate a new lifestyle, ultimately changing the lives of many community members for the better.

Cultivating Life-long Change

The most significant testimony to the success of the HOPE Garden came from community volunteer, Rayfield Gilyard, a volunteer who helped to construct the raised garden beds and worked at the site daily.

“I noticed while working in the garden my sugar reading was going down to a safe range. I would check it in the morning and the reading was high, by the time I had worked in the garden for about a couple of hours it had dropped. Continually moving around helped a lot. I also lost some weight. Some people think that if you volunteer you’re working for nothing, but they are wrong. The exercise you get from gardening can help your blood pressure, stress, and a lot of other things.”

-Rayfield Gilyard, local resident & HOPE Garden volunteer

Becky Horace is Terracon’s Brownfield grants coordinator located in the Greenville, S.C. office. She is responsible for coordination of the Brownfield Assessment, Clean Up and Revolving Loan Fund Grant applications. Her experience in local municipal government and writing provides a unique perspective and insight to our client’s needs.

Brad Tompa is the Client Development Manager/Senior Project Manager in the Jacksonville, Florida office. Brad has over 25 years’ experience as an environmental consultant.

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