Work to remove traces of lead from the soil at Sportsman's Park near downtown Naperville is set to resume this spring, but the park district first needs some cooperation from Mother Nature.
Removal of trees in a 17-acre area where soil cleanup will take place was scheduled to begin this week, but was delayed because of cold weather, park officials said.
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The tree removal will precede the second phase of environmental remediation to remove remnants of lead pellets used at the park's three trapshooting ranges until the pellets were banned in 1998.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has approved plans for the work, after which the district hopes the site will be declared safe and in need of no further remediation.
Cleanup of Sportsman's Park began last fall after testing in 2012 confirmed suspicions the park was contaminated with lead from the shooting ranges it has housed since roughly 1948.
Martam Construction last fall removed traces of lead found outside the park's eastern fence line for $490,457.
Executive Director Ray McGury said the park district now is preparing to seek bids for the second phase of lead cleanup this spring to remediate a larger area inside the fence line. The work can begin once the ground thaws.
The company chosen will excavate and remove affected soil, then treat and replenish remaining soil in the 17-acre area.
But first, the park district must remove trees inside the zone where lead is present.
"These trees are glorified weeds," McGury said. "They're invasive and full of lead."
He said winter is a good time to remove the plants because it keeps costs down and avoids disruption of bird nests. Contractors now are expected to begin tree removal Saturday or next week.
"We're at the mercy of the weather," McGury said.
Once tree removal and soil cleanup conclude, the park district will reforest the area by planting 150 new trees along with bushes, other native plants and grass.
The district also is pursuing improvements to the park -- at 725 S. West St. north of the garden plots and west of Knoch Park -- to make it more available to the public, park board President Rich Janor said. That work will include new trails and lighting, improvements to the clubhouse and restoration of natural areas. The gravel access road is set to be paved and the gravel parking area will be replaced by a lot built with permeable pavers.
Janor said the district is seeking a contribution from the city's Special Events and Cultural Amenities fund to pay for up to $574,130 of work on new amenities. The city council will decide in April whether to fund the Sportsman's Park project and others that applied for money from the fund.