Neighborhood reclaims open space
EVERETT - It was once a sandlot that kids played in. Decades later it has turned into an illegal dumping site, where residents in the South Forest Park neighborhood spent a recent Saturday cleaning the lot up.
The empty half-acre, in the central south part of the neighborhood just northwest of 52nd Street and Evergreen Way, became a hotspot for dumping garbage about a year ago, neighbors said. The Snohomish Health District spotted the dump site by coincidence and mandated an immediate cleanup.
Each homeowner in the neighborhood owns a piece of the lot. The developer who created the neighborhood of 98 homes in the 1950s set it up this way to give the neighborhood its own open space, city spokeswoman Kate Reardon said last week.
Health district environmental health specialist Kathy Pierson found tents, clothing and old mattresses. The biggest hazard she found on the site was a broken TV.
The effort to clean up the lot became a community project. The neighborhood created a nine-person committee to work on the project when neighbors met with health district and city officials Tuesday, March 27.
A crew of 30 volunteers from Operation Sound Beach plus neighbors brought their work gloves Saturday, April 14 to the cleanup party.
Rubatino Refuse Removal gave them a large dumpster at a discount rate, and Pierson worked to get the Snohomish County solid waste division to give a discount tipping fee for dumping the material, Pierson said.
While one watchful neighbor would call the police to report anyone near the site, nobody was taking care of the lot for years.
“Nobody was taking care of it,” acting neighborhood chair Dennis Dudder said last week.
Moving forward, the site will get “no trespassing” and “no dumping” signs courtesy of the health district.
Neighbors will need to figure out what to do with the lot, Dudder said. Neighbors have some ideas to make it a place for the neighborhood to enjoy once again, he said.
“I’m really impressed,” Pierson said.
The amount dumped on the site isn’t the largest she’s seen, but she’s never worked with a whole neighborhood to clean up a site before, Pierson said.
For a sandlot that some longtime neighbors remember playing baseball and football in as kids decades ago, the site may have a bright future as a community space once again.
By MICHAEL WHITNEY
Published April 18, 2012