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By Brian Hews
Norwalk City Manager Mike Egan was ecstatic when he heard the news that the city of Norwalk will finally receive 15 acres of the 51-acre former Norwalk Tank Farm.
This was the culmination of an over 20-year effort by the city to get the property cleaned up.
Egan said the 15 acres would be added to the existing Chet Holifield Park, doubling its size.
When contacted by HMG-CN, Norwalk Mayor pro tem Leonard Shryock said, “I think it is fantastic to have the opportunity to expand the park. The ground is contaminated and we are limited to what we can do, but I have always seen the space as expanding the park.”
The tank farm, formally known as the Norwalk Defense Fuel Supply Point, is located on the corner of Norwalk Boulevard and Excelsior Drive. Private oil companies constructed the Tank Farm in the 1920s before being purchased by the Air Force in the 1950s.
It was used to store jet fuel, which was distributed to military installations in western United States. The military ended fuel operations at the site in 2001. Environmental cleanup operations began in 1995 and are continuing on the site.
Egan said the City Council obviously has final say about what they want to do, but said there is a need for open space within the city.
He indicated that soil remediation will continue, so no decision will be made for at least two years.
Shryock said that Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Cerritos, introduced the amendment providing for the property transfer into the defense bill.
The passage was the final step in a long process to have fifteen acres at the site designated for public use and transferred to the City of Norwalk free of cost.
“She rallied all the politicians and got the amendment into the Defense Bill, she did a great job,” said Shryock.
“Today’s news means the people of Norwalk can look forward to enjoying a new recreational space in their community,” said Rep. Sánchez. “For over 20 years, local leaders have tirelessly advocated for an opportunity to transform the blighted space. I am pleased that my staff and I were able to provide the support necessary to have their efforts come to fruition. I look forward to continuing to work with the City of Norwalk as we explore options to transform the 15 acres of land into a space our community can enjoy.”
Norwalk Mayor Marcel Rodarte in a written statement praised Sanchez for her effort.
“We applaud the efforts of Rep. Sanchez and the support of the US Air Force to help our community see progress on its long-standing vision to revitalize the area, said Rodarte.
“This is fantastic news,” said Norwalk City Councilman Luigi Vernola. “This is a culmination of a lot of hard work by many people. It started with former Norwalk City Councilwoman, now Congresswoman Grace Napolitano, on the City Council. We started in the 1990’s to get the 15 acres and bring more recreational activities to Norwalk. When Grace went to Congress she kept working on it, then when Rep. Sanchez was elected she started working on it too. We finally have the opportunity to clean this mess up and have more open space for our great city and its residents. Thank you Rep. Sanchez for all your efforts to get this issue resolved.”