John and Pat Marrinan’s plans of finishing another section of the Buckeye Trail last week were dashed by gates blocking the trail along the Little Miami River in Warren County.
The Dayton brothers were among visitors who learned the hard way about the recent closing of a popular section of the Little Miami Scenic Trail on weekdays, at least through April, for a long-awaited, $5 million environmental cleanup.
A half-mile stretch of the trail will be gated from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, while contractors begin cleaning up contaminated soil on the former Peters Cartridge Factory property, 1415 Grandin Road, just east of the Little Miami River.
The closure blocks one of the most popular sections of the trail for southbound users, including cyclists, runners and hikers like the Marrinans, leading into Loveland. Almost 200,000 people crossed this section last year, according to counts by the Friends of Little Miami State Park.
The Buckeye Trail, a 1,444-mile trail around Ohio, also follows the Little Miami Scenic Trail route through Warren County. After encountering the northern fence, the Marrinans hitched a ride around the blocked section and hiked on to Loveland, with plans to return later to finish the section.
“There really isn’t a good way around,” Pat Marrinan said Wednesday.
Long-awaited clean up
Started in the 1850s, the existing Peters Cartridge Factory was built in 1916 and used to produce ammunition for more than 30 years before being closed around the end of World War II.
Since then, it has been the site of different businesses, including Columbia Records and Seagrams Distilleries. From 1987 to 1991, LensCrafters made eyeglass lenses and frames here.
US EPA has been planning the cleanup of property, contaminated with lead, copper, mercury, boiler ash and slag, for more than a decade.
In 2003, the 71-acre property was placed on a list of Superfund sites, in part due to concerns of contamination of the Little Miami.
In 2009, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued an order calling for the cleanup. DuPont has been identified by EPA as responsible for the cleanup. After failing to reach a consent decree with the company, EPA ordered DuPont to handle the cleanup in March 2012, according to the agency.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Ohio EPA and Wildlife Habitat Council and other property owners were also involved.
Last December, a final plan, including the trail closure, was completed.
“Cleanup work at the Peters Cartridge site will need to occur over an extensive area, including on both sides of the bike trail that runs along the river. Due to the physical characteristics of the site and surrounding area, there are no viable options for creating an alternate bike trail or detour during the cleanup work,” according to EPA.
Parsons, an engineering firm, is handling the cleanup.
The contaminated soil will be removed, treated in some cases, and placed in an on-site containment unit, and covered with new soil to prevent contact. On April 3, Parsons was expected to begin clearing lowlands north of the trail. On April 14, excavation of soil near the river is to begin, according to DuPont.
“As we work to complete the final implementation phase this year, we will continue to focus on protecting people and the environment and complying with all applicable laws and regulations,” Sathya Yalvigi, project director for DuPont, said in the company’s March 2015 project update.
While the trail is expected to open in May, the cleanup will continue into the fall, with tree replantings in 2016 and 2017.
In 2009, EPA estimated the cleanup would cost $5 million, but DuPont declined to comment on how much it expected to spend.
“DuPont does not discuss financial requirements for its remediation projects, and we have no further comment outside of what is available in regulatory filings,” spokesman Aaron Woods said in an email.
EPA considered impact on the bike trail in scheduling the cleanup.
“Since the bike trail is adjacent to the site and presents contamination on both sides, EPA is minimizing the impact on recreational bicycle users by scheduling bike path cleanup earlier in the year, rather than later when there’s more usage,” according to EPA.
Gates went up on March 23 at Grandin Road and about five miles south, north of the crossing in Fosters.
“No detour will be provided around the site, but signs will be posted several days before planned closures,” according to EPA.
The trail will be open during evenings and on weekends.
The trail parking lot at Grandin Road, across from the cleanup site, will be open “as much as possible” and the trail will be open, heading north from there, according to officials.
Last week, small signs were posted where the trail crossed Grandin Road, at the cleanup site, and at the Fosters crossing.
“This is the only sign between here and Loveland. There needs to be one in Loveland,” said Mackie Price, of Batavia, pausing near the Fosters crossing, about five miles north of Loveland.
Price is a member of the Friends of the Little Miami State Park, a volunteer group overseeing maintenance along 50 miles of the trail, including the closed section.
“Loveland is absolutely the busiest part,” said Aaron Rourke, adopt-a-trail coordinator for the group.
“We would really recommend ODNR would recommend reroutes,” Rourke said. “We try to be very user-friendly.”
The trail runs 75 miles from Springfield to Newtown. Last year, counts on the lower 50 miles indicated more than 750,000 used the trail.
The stretch leading south into Loveland is popular for cyclists traveling from as far away as Springfield and Xenia.
Still Price said the closure could avoid causing major disruptions, if the trail was reopened by the time the school year ended.
“If it’s still going on when school’s out, it’s an issue,” she said.