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Are there risks at the site now?
Risks and exposure pathways addressed by the cleanup include health risks from people inadvertently ingesting, inhaling or touching soil or water contaminated with heavy metals from past mining activities. A vast majority of the cleanup at the site has been completed, so current risk of exposure is low. Pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children are still encouraged to have their blood-lead levels checked. Lake County continues to offer free blood-lead testing and can be reached at 719-486-0118.
Over the years, EPA worked with the state, the local community and the site’s potentially responsible parties to coordinate ecological restoration work and redevelopment on specific portions of the site.
In 1998, EPA and the state signed agreements to provide public access to open space near the Arkansas River. State and local governments purchased more than 2,300 acres of ranch land that serve as wildlife habitat and recreational resources.
Another example of redevelopment is a $1.5 million public sports complex. The complex includes a soccer field built in 2009 on a former zinc smelter. One of EPA’s national partners, the United States Soccer Foundation, awarded a $10,000 grant to develop initial plans for the facility. Community support also led to the creation of a 21,000-square-foot concrete skate park that opened in fall 2013. This was one component of a community-driven initiative called the Huck Finn Park Project that will upgrade an existing Leadville park with new skating facilities, repaired tennis courts, and a new building for park equipment storage, restrooms and concessions.
The community also incorporated reuse of remaining byproducts into the design of the Mineral Belt Trail, which opened in 2000. This nationally recognized recreational trail highlights the community’s history and heritage. Reuse of the California Gulch Superfund site now offers Leadville residents and visitors expanded recreational opportunities, including the Arkansas River Trail, a 5-mile loop along the Arkansas River.
In 2014, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission honored the site with a Gold Metal Trout Waters designation. The designation highlights the Upper Arkansas River's improved water quality and revitalized habitats for trout and other wildlife.
Also in 2014, Lake County received a $400,000 brownfields assessment grant from EPA. Following the deletion of the property from the NPL, Poverty Flats (the Old Railyard) is currently being developed into a multi-use complex with 200+ residential, commercial, and recreational properties.