"Wonderful recreational resource:" Oak Creek takes step forward in redeveloping lakefront

OAK CREEK (WITI) -- On Friday December 5th, 2014 the City of Oak Creek took a major step forward in the redevelopment of its lakefront (known as LakeVista) as it accepted ownership of 98 acres of land along Lake Michigan’s shoreline from E. I. Du Pont de Nemours and EPEC Polymers, Inc.

The transfer of these properties, at no cost to the city, is the culmination of a six-year collaborative process that involved the city, Du Pont , EPEC, the Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency.

"This is a project that will ultimately redefine what Oak Creek is about," Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi said.

This transfer took place after the Wisconsin DNR issued its Certificate of Completion under the Voluntary Party Liability Exemption (VPLE) program for both properties.

The Du Pont property was the former home of a chemical plant in the 1920s and 1930s.

The waste from the chemical plant was disposed of on a portion of the EPEC property. Arsenic and other contaminants on the EPEC property were removed to a depth of 17 feet in 2003 under the supervision and control of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Under the terms of the EPA and DNR agreements Du Pont and EPEC spent approximately $18 million to conduct the environmental investigation and to implement the environmental remediation plan, which included a two-foot clay cap over the majority of the site. The soil for this cap was obtained from excavation of soils during the reconstruction of the Mitchell Interchange.

The ability to obtain that clean soil at a minimal cost to the city was a collaborative effort among the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, DNR, City of Oak Creek, Du Pont, EPEC and its contractors.

TAKE A LOOK: Graphic shows concept plan for Oak Creek's lakefront

Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi praised the efforts of all involved noting “Without the tireless efforts of the property owners, the Wisconsin DNR, Environmental Protection Agency and city staff these properties would have remained as a barrier between the citizens of our community and the lakefront, denying the community access to this wonderful recreational resource.”

He went on to remark that, “2015 marks Oak Creek’s 60th year as a city, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate this moment in our history than by reclaiming the city’s lakefront and making these lands accessible to the public for the very first time.”

The city has committed to investing $14 million for new infrastructure to serve this area, known as LakeVista. The city’s investment consists of new roadway connections from State Highway 100 and State Highway 32 as well as a new public park area that includes a lakefront drive, bike paths, trails and other recreational amenities. The details of those plans are currently being finalized as part of an ongoing public planning effort.

"We want winter activities, summer activities, weddings, playground facilities. We want the whole gambit down there for the public to use," Oak Creek Alderman Mike Toman said.

Nearly 55 acres of the site remain available for private sector redevelopment. Beginning early in 2015, the city will be seeking private sector partners to play a role in the development of these and adjacent properties.

"Could be residential, could be hotel, could be conference centers -- really anything that compliments the public part of it. I think people will recognize 10, 20 years from now, longer than that even, they have a really cool thing going on here," Mayor Scaffidi said.

"It`s really exciting that finally we`re doing something that will enhance our community, that will make us a little different from areas around here," Oak Creek resident Kathy Johnson said.

The Oak Creek City Council will vote Tuesday, December 15th on the initial draft for the park development. The plan is for the new roads and park space to be built by the end of 2016. The private development will come later.

For more information about the LakeVista development, please visit www.oakcreekwi.org.