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WELLINGTON, Carbon County — When crews began clean-up work at the site where the Knight-Ideal coal processing facility once stood, the place was a mess.
"It was covered with coal refuse, a lot of concrete rubble and structural garbage," Chris Rohrer, a senior reclamation specialist with the state's Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program, said Wednesday.
Two years after the work started, the once-contaminated site is ready to take on a new life as a city park.
"The reclamation stuff, it's just been a godsend," Wellington City Councilman Terry Sanslow said.
For Sanslow, who also serves as the city's recreation director, the plan to turn the old Knight-Ideal site into a 30-acre green space with ball diamonds, a walking path, a skate park and a three-acre pond stocked with rainbow trout has been a passion.
"It's something I've thought about for a long time," Sanslow said, noting that the plan to rehabilitate the site was first proposed in the 1980s.
"It's been a slow process," the councilman said, "but we're finally getting there."
Reclaiming the land has been a bumpy process at times.
"Mid project we discovered the contaminated soil from the underground storage tank," Rohrer said.
It was covered with coal refuse, a lot of concrete rubble and structural garbage.
–Chris Rohrer, a senior reclamation specialist with the state's Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program
The discovery meant crews had to remove and properly dispose of 11,000 tons of soil tainted with diesel fuel. That caused a delay while engineers redesigned a project that also saw roughly 3,000 cubic yards of coal refuse and 3,000 cubic yards of concrete rubble buried in a specially designed landfill cell at the site.
But there were successes, too.
"We also salvaged about 2,500 cubic yards of usable coal that we were able to put back into the market," Rohrer said.
The U.S. Office of Surface Mining provided the bulk of the money from a federal trust account that is funded by the coal industry, Rohrer said. The city of Wellington, Carbon County, the state Division of Wildlife Resources and the state Division of Oil, Gas and Mining also committed funds to the project.
Inmate workers from Utah Correctional Industries were at the site Wednesday spreading a specialized mulch to help stabilize the soil. That job is expected to be finished this week, bringing an end to the state's role in the project, Rohrer said.
"As I talk to the city officials, their plans in the short-term and the long-term are just phenomenal in terms of turning this once useless site into really a gem of a recreational resource," he said.
The city plans to build facilities at the park in phases, but there is still a lot of work to be done before the park has a soft opening in April. Sanslow, though, isn't discouraged.
"As I come down here every day and see the progress that's being made, I just jump for joy," he said.