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Conway Wants to Turn Scrap Yard into Public Park

The city of Conway want to turn an old scrap metal yard and build a public park in its place but there are major concerns about dangerous contaminants found in the soil.
CONWAY, AR -- The city of Conway wants to turn an old scrap metal yard into a public park.  But there are major concerns about dangerous contaminants found in the soil.
   
The city sees potential in the site and has entered into talks with the owners to purchase the property with plans to turn it into a park or amphitheater.

The city's initial offer: $275,000.

"That's a lot," said Conway resident Brandy Swanson.  "They could probably find one that has clean land for less than that."

The city says location is key.  It covets the land as part of a revitalization effort and a place to store runoff to prevent flooding in downtown.

But we found people skeptical that a place like a scrap yard could ever be transformed into what the city envisions.

"Even if you did clean it up there is a possibility there could be some other stuff we didn't know about," said William Gordon, another Conway resident.

When the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality looked into the property it found harmful metals like arsenic and lead among the laundry list of contaminants in both the soil and groundwater.

City officials declined an interview request Wednesday, but John Jordan represents the current owners.

"Right now, everything is basically contingent on what those clean up costs are going to be for any kind of future development of that site," Jordan said.

Jordan says cleanup on the scale needed to turn the scrap yard into a park is not uncommon.  He says the current price tag the city has put on the property is just a start.

"It might actually be worth more than that," he said.

Both sides said Wednesday they expect negotiations would play out throughout the summer.
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