From EPA Superfund Site to a Kid’s Paradise: An Amazing Transformation in Inner-City Chicago

New material to reduce heat in buildings
Air Conditioning without Electricity? Sending Hot Air to Outer Space
December 25, 2014
Crowdsourcing
Crowdsourcing: Manifesting Endless Possibilities
December 31, 2014

From EPA Superfund Site to a Kid’s Paradise: An Amazing Transformation in Inner-City Chicago

La Villita Park Chicago

The new park provides 22 acres of recreational activities and sport facilities for youth

Chicago Park District

Chicago Park District

For two Chicago neighborhoods devoid of playgrounds and open space, the completion of La Villita Park is a dream come true. The new park provides 22 acres of recreational activities, including basketball courts, soccer fields, a skate park, walking trails and large playground filled with all the latest, totally cool equipment for children. Coming on line in the near future will be a softball and baseball field.

This fantasyland is a huge departure from its heyday as the site of Celotex, an asphalt roofing factory, warehouse and market. In 1989, the Illinois EPA made note of the excessive amount of coal tar that was leaking into the ground. Things did not improve though, and ultimately the property gained the distinction of being listed among the most notorious of the Federal EPA’s Superfund sites. Polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, a cancer causing agent, was detected in the soil at the site as well as in several backyards of nearby neighbors.

For decades, until the Park’s opening on December 14, 2014, the contaminated site remained an eyesore for the Chicago neighborhoods. It may have stayed this way, except for the tireless efforts of community action groups, such as Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, who succeeded in drawing attention to the site and never ceased demanding that it be cleaned up. According to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the transition to urban park is one of the largest conversions of a former Superfund site in the US. The Park cost $19 million which was covered by state grants, city funds and the Chicago Park District.

La Villita Park Chicago

The new park provides 22 acres of recreational activities and sport facilities for youth

According to Antonio Lopez, Executive Director of Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, this project is much more than just a playground for the city’s youth. He says the key issue is that an “environmental injustice and public health nuisance” has been corrected. Lopez adds that the group is not finished with La Vallita Park. Next job is to generate funds to build indoor sports facilities so that the park can serve kids year-round.

One thing is for certain, memories of Celotex, and the environmental damage it caused, is fading away, replaced by the happy voices of kids who finally have a safe place to play.

  • Guest

    It’s a great location to spend a few hours with your family, just be advised that there are not any restrooms.

  • Mary Douglas

    It’s a great location to spend a few hours with your family, just be advised that there are not any restrooms.

  • Timothy Collins

    This is a really nice story. It’s good to see something good happen in the world. What an amazing transformation.

  • George Keating

    I’m sure this took a lot of hard work and activism by community groups to get this done. Kudos to the Little Environmental Justice Organization and all of those who made this worthwhile effort possible.

  • marluilink

    Great story. I’m always happy to hear when a bad situation is turned into something positive, especially when it is about something positive for the planet.

  • Ronnie Wankershim Griffin

    Happy to see that they are taking care of an environmental hazard. Especially for the kids.

  • lucyaaa

    Very uplifting story. It is great to see an area that was going to waste turned into a place that so many can enjoy.