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Miami to close Curtis Park to deal with soil tainted with toxic ash

Miami will close Curtis Park, a sprawling recreational complex and home to a number of popular sports leagues north of the Miami River, rather than keep it open while addressing soil laced with toxic incinerator ash.

Last month after finding soil contaminated with heavy metals, city officials said they planned to keep the park open at 1901 NW 24th Ave.

Much of the park is covered with artificial turf, rubber track and concrete courts.

But in a Jan. 30 letter, the county’s Division of Environmental Resources Management, which oversees contamination clean-ups, said the city would have to first take a number of safety measures. It would need to cover areas where ash waste was found with a protective fabric along with six inches of either clay, rock or mulch. The city would also have to perform daily inspections to ensure the cover stayed in place.

In a brief press release Friday, the city said, “The park is being closed until further sampling can be performed and necessary actions are identified. The City is working closely with DERM and the State Department of Health as further testing is performed and plans are developed to permanently remedy the issue.”

“We worked with them, but ultimately that’s there decision and they decided to do that, to close the park, based on the options we provided,” said DERM spokesman Luis Espinoza.

Assistant City Manager Alice Bravo did not respond to a phone message.

The Allapattah park has football and baseball fields, a track, basketball courts and a playground just north of the Miami River. It is home field to the Police Athletic League’s popular Miami Jets.

It sits about a mile and a half from where Miami’s 20th Street incinerator operated for three decades until it was designated an environmental hazard and shut down about 1975. Dioxins, considered the most toxic of chemicals, have been found in soil around the incinerator site, which was designated a “brownfield” and slated for clean-up. In 2003, scientists also found dioxins in sediment at the bottom of Wagoner Creek, a tributary of the river that they suspect may have come from the incinerator.

The park becomes the fifth park in the city to be fenced in and closed after complaints from residents about delays in addressing contamination from an old Coconut Grove incinerator triggered an inspection of all of Miami’s 112 parks.

This week, officials also confirmed that soil in a section of the 32-acre Bayfront Park, considered the city’s village green and one of its oldest, also showed signs of contamination but would remain open. Closed parks include Douglas, Merrie Christmas, Billy Rolle and Southside. Only Blanche Park in Coconut Grove, which is covered with artificial turf, remains open.

In addition, parts of Brothers to the Rescue Park, which sits in the county near the site of an old Coral Gables incinerator, have been closed.