Coconut Grove’s Blanche Park to close through summer to remove toxic soil

The city of Miami is closing Blanche Park in Coconut Grove while workers remove contaminated soil and replace the park’s artificial turf.

The children’s area of the park, and the dog-park area, will be closed starting Wednesday until at least June. The park remained open after toxic soil was found in September because officials said the artificial turf and asphalt protected park-goers from the soil.

The plan is to remove the existing artificial turf and at least one foot of the contaminated soil. New soil and turf would then be placed along with a new drainage system and an impermeable liner. In addition, mulch will be placed around the trees.

The work will require the playground equipment to be removed, and construction equipment will be stored in the dog-park area, said Assistant City Manager Alice Bravo.

The project will cost about $400,000.

The closing of Blanche Park, 3045 Shipping Ave., comes about two weeks after a section of Merrie Christmas Park, another location with contaminated soil, reopened. But, Bravo said, work could be starting there soon, too.

“We’re probably a few weeks away from starting the remediation there,” Bravo said. “On the west part of the park, we’re going to make sure there’s two feet of clean soil.”

The contaminated soil, containing arsenic and other metals, was discovered after the city began testing Blanche Park’s soil last summer. A site near the park was once the home of a municipal incinerator, nicknamed Old Smokey. It is believed that ash from the incinerator, and at least three other incinerators that once operated in the area, could have mixed into the ground of Blanche and Merrie Christmas parks.

Since then, the city has completed screening of 112 parks as required by Miami-Dade County environmental officials, and identified the parks that need to be cleaned up.

Bravo said that the city plans to begin work on the other parks by the late summer or early fall, but funding remains an obstacle. The city is still considering using remaining funds from the $46 million set aside for remediation of the old Virginia Key landfill. That plan would require approval by county officials.

“We’re still working that out with the county,” Bravo said. “They’re just trying to get a better handle on what the cost of the landfill [project] will be.”

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