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A park and pond? Here?

Wellington's old Knight-Ideal coal loadout property could become a showcase public park.

Sun Advocate Reporter

It takes imagination to see the possibilities for the old Knight-Ideal Coal property in east Wellington.

Broken slabs of concrete, coal fines and lots of what might politely be called "native plants" now adorn the landscape. These are remnants of the days when the coal company used to wash and pile up its production on the site for rail shipment.

That's all yesterday and today. As for the future, how about this: Two baseball fields, a 2.5-acre fishing pond complete with fishing platforms, restrooms, playground, picnic area, asphalt parking lot and shade trees. Those would all fit on the 17-acre property the city owns.

The price tag to bring this plan into reality is a cool $2.4 million. It is the most expensive of three options for park development designed by engineers at URS Corp. for the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining. On Wednesday, the Wellington City Council got a look at the options, and agreed to work up a list of proposed changes or suggestions over the next few weeks.

The basic model, a fishing pond to be designed by the Division of Wildlife Resources along the lines of the Gigliotti Pond in Helper, would go for about $800,000.

The next most expensive alternative is a pond and single ball park for more than $1 million.

These plans are taking shape because the DOGM's Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program is out to reclaim the property in full. Previous efforts were aimed at reducing immediate safety hazards. These included burying tons and tons of coal on site and bulldozing concrete and debris into piles on the surface and burying the rest. Sunnyside Cogeneration helped somewhat when it hauled away truckloads of the low-grade coal almost a decade ago to burn in its power plant. Native plants had even sprouted in that big coal pile before it was leveled, although spontaneous combustion in the fuel occasionally reduced the population.

The complete restoration, which would bring the land into full compliance with national environmental standards, is probably eligible for federal grants from the U.S. Office of Surface Mining reclamation program.

That would finance the removal of the coal and debris, and regrading the whole property for eventual park development.

Mayor Ben Blackburn is pushing for the biggest plan. He told the council he thinks it is better to get the engineering done for the long term, then apply for grants or do what can be done with local volunteer help to implement the improvements in time.

Wellington got the property in 1997 when Arch Coal, the eventual owner of the site, deeded it over to the city.

URS, based in Salt Lake, designed the options based on a "wish list" suggested earlier by the city. The initial options delivered to the city represent a 30-percent completion of the entire engineering task. The proposed schedule calls for 90 percent of the work to be done by December, with a construction start possible by sometime in 2011.

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