When you first hear “Superfund site,” it sounds like something connected to politics. The name makes it seem like something you want to avoid as politics interfere with far too many aspects of our lives. But today, we’re actually encouraging you to visit Superfund sites because they can be beautiful places to get into nature!
The EPA’s Superfund program cleans up some of the most contaminated lands in the country and responds to natural disasters. It makes visible, long-lasting changes to help people live in healthy spaces for longer. While the project’s aim might make it sound like visiting a Superfund site would be like going to a toxic dump, that couldn’t be further from the truth. When they open to the public, they are gorgeous, safe parks meant to be enjoyed by everyone.
Take the case of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The 33,000-acre park is a wetland wonderland filled with birds and plants. It’s also the most extensive Superfund project. It was transformed from a landscape filled with leaking chemical waste barrels and old abandoned cars into an incredible place to visit. It’s close to Cleveland, making it an easy day trip for people who live there and another stop for tourists.
The EPA shut the site in 1986 and began the task of figuring out how to fix it. The work was mostly done by 2014. The National Park Service re-established the native flowers, grasses and habitats of the animals that lived there. Their work was fully completed in December of 2020. Ford Motor Co. and other companies responsible for the damage were involved in the clean-up. The Superfund law holds the companies that polluted a site liable for the damages.
“The completion of the remediation and restoration work necessary to eliminate public health risks and the impairment of park resources marks a great achievement for Cuyahoga Valley National Park and everyone who has been involved in this long process,” Acting Park Superintendent Lisa Petit said. “Together, we have completely removed one of the most toxic Superfund sites in the national park system and made it safe for the public to enjoy.”
The park isn’t simply safe; it’s gorgeous. Knowing that it was once a dump actually somehow makes it better. It is inspiring that such a beautiful place can be reclaimed from the ashes. It was a toxic dumping ground. Now it’s a place for picnics and walks.
If you search this page, you can find beautiful areas near you that are open to the public for fun activities that were once unsafe, unsightly and unpleasant. You would never say to your grandchildren, “Hey, do you want to go play at the landfill today?” But, now that the program has capped the Fresno Municipal Sanitary Landfill, removed the gas and added a surface water management system, visiting it might be a fun day out if you live in the area! There are soccer and softball fields, a playground, a picnic area and bathrooms.
The program has created many spaces to enjoy, from parks to recreation areas, so check out the site and find your next outing.