After the shutdown of a much anticipated outdoor project due to environmental safety concerns, the City of Oakdale, after nearly a year of negotiations, has been awarded $355,000 by the California Natural Resources Agency to get construction of the Valley View Park Trail back on track.
“In working with the California Natural Resources Agency, they told us they would provide us the funds needed to complete the project,” Oakdale City Manager Bryan Whitemyer said, adding the city was notified Nov. 14 of the financial award.
Four years ago, the California Natural Resources Agency granted the City of Oakdale $862,625 to convert more than 15 acres into a river parkway including a 750-foot trail allowing public access to the Stanislaus River from Valley View Park. But after the city had started construction in July 2015, CalRecycle, the governing environmental agency of the state, issued a “cease and desist” order to the city over the safety of the site, which had been a former city dump.
The order caused construction to the trail to stop and the area has remained fenced off.
The former Oakdale City Dump had no liners to prevent groundwater contamination. It was operating during a time of few government regulations on waste disposal and open burning. In 1963 the Stanislaus County Department of Public Health and State of California ordered the site to be closed down.
At the time of the park construction, the city put a membrane cover over the contaminated soil, covered it with additional soil, and built the park; however, no covering was done over the downslope to the river.
Records show that during park construction, workers reported coming across debris during excavating and hitting subsoil that was not suitable for landscape areas.
Last year the city had to spend an unexpected $80,000 from its General Fund for environmental cleanup efforts before it could proceed and feared more money would be needed to appease CalRecycle.
Whitemyer said there had been meetings between the city, CalRecycle, and the California Natural Resources Agency over the last year with the goal to get the project moving again, including contacting State Senator Tom Berryhill and Assembly Member Kristin Olsen.
“Both Mr. Berryhill and Ms. Olsen were beneficial in our cause and I’m grateful for their help,” Whitemyer said.
Whitemyer said with the additional grant money, the city can get the project back in motion.
“We anticipate that construction will restart in spring,” Whitemyer said. “Per the grant, we have to have the project completed by April 2019, and that completion date should now be met.”