GENEVA — A plan to remediate the city’s historic Genesee Park — and in the process, remove a large number of mature trees — is on hold.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation had planned to do soil removal at the park on Genesee Street this fall to remove high levels of lead and arsenic, but City Manager Sage Gerling said Monday that the project is now on hold, following two meetings with residents and concerns expressed by members of City Council.
The project involves removing deep layers of contaminated soil, and it was feared nearly all of the park’s trees would not survive such upheaval. The only tree that city officials expected to remain was a massive bur oak that Gerling believes dates back to the park’s creation in 1849.
The depths of the soil to be removed ranges from 6-24 inches, based on the level of contamination. The contamination stems from the former Geneva Foundry on Jackson Street, which has contaminated countless properties in the city’s Fifth and Sixth wards. The state is conducting a multi-million dollar remediation of properties in the contamination zone. The project started in 2017.
“I had two really informative sessions with residents and concerned citizens over the past two weekends,” she said. “Resoundingly, residents would like to see the trees saved in the park. Public health and safety also was important to residents.”
Gerling said the remediation design team will be working with the DEC and state Department of Health to answer questions that arose from City Council, city staff and residents “to determine other potential options for preserving more trees in the park. Once remediation options are ready, which could include not remediating the park, we will get feedback from City Council and residents. Ultimately, City Council will make a decision on a path forward.”
Residents have expressed ideas for the historic park, including adding electric and water access for neighborhood events; replacing the diagonal sidewalk with bricks; and more benches.