By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
GOSHEN — When it comes to efficient and effective brownfield cleanup, Goshen is doing it right. And the nation is noticing.
Take, for example, Goshen’s very own Becky Hershberger. As Brownfield Coordinator for the city, Hershberger was recently honored by the Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 for her work in securing grant funding for the brownfield cleanup success story that is the Goshen River Race, an area of nine brownfield sites located along Goshen’s millrace canal that has been a focus of cleanup efforts by the city since 2006.
“Since 2006, we’ve cleaned them all up, we’ve received numerous assessment grants, we’ve received six cleanup grants, and then we tapped some money from the state that they had received from the EPA,” Hershberger said of the project. “We’ve invested approximately $800,000 local dollars in the cleanup, but for every dollar that we spent, it was matched by $4 from other sources. So we’ve spent a lot of money, but it was money we received from the EPA and the state to do the project.”
Hershberger’s honor, known as the Brownfields Recognition Award, was actually announced during the National Brownfields Conference in Atlanta, Ga., this past May, the largest event in the nation focusing on environmental revitalization and economic redevelopment.
Due to the fact that Hershberger was unable to attend the actual conference, she received the award during a surprise recognition ceremony at the Goshen Redevelopment Commission meeting last week.
“The Region 5 Brownfields program typically recognizes the good deeds of a single organization in each of our states — Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin — and tribes every couple years, usually in preparation for the Brownfields Conference,” said Deborah Orr, brownfields coordinator for EPA Region 5. “For Goshen, the work occurred through cooperative agreements, also often referred to as grants. Goshen was selected this round because they successfully and consistently leverage wastewater and drinking water state revolving funds to address brownfields. Goshen is a model for other states because of this. While Becky could not attend the conference, she worked hard on developing the success story.”
For Hershberger, that success story has not been without its ups and downs, particularly when it comes to the challenges posed by working with so many different funding sources, some of which had never before been tapped for such a project.
“We were one of the first in the state to utilize so many different sources of funds to do the projects,” Hershberger said. “For a couple of the projects we were pulling money out of three or four different sources, and it got a little chaotic, the tracking and just the implementation. And on top of that, we were learning along with the state on how they wanted to spend their money, so we had a lot of people to report to. So it was a challenge, but it was worth it, because with just local funds we never could have done what we did.”
Mark Brinson, community development director for the city, was quick to agree.
“Goshen is fortunate to have a nationally recognized brownfield program,” Brinson said. “The success of this initiative would not be possible without the diligence and dedication of Becky Hershberger. Becky is a highly capable grant manager who has developed strong working relationships with state and federal agencies like the EPA and the Indiana Brownfield program. The result has been phenomenal in terms of the amount of funding that Goshen has received from these partner agencies.”
So what’s next for the Goshen River Race now that a majority of the cleanup projects have been completed?
“The cleanup work is 95 percent complete,” Hershberger said. “We are in the process of selecting a developer for one of the areas, working out a lease agreement for the NIPSCO building, and LaCasa will soon be taking over the Hawks Building to redevelop. So we’ve done the hard part. We’ve gotten them ready. And now, I’d say probably within the next five to 10 years, people are going to see a real transformation. So it’s definitely exciting.”