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St. Louis' Boys And Girls Club To Turn Carter Carburetor Site Into Golf Range For Kids

Dr. Flint Fowler, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Congressman Lacy Clay and Cardinal Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith celebrate the future PGA Academy .JPG
Boys and Girls Club of Greater St. Louis
Boys and Girls Club of Greater St. Louis president Flint Fowler, EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, Congressman Lacy Clay and St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith celebrate the clean up of the Carter Carburetor Superfund site and the creation of the children's golfing facility, which is slated to begin construction by the end of the year.

The cleanup of north St. Louis’ Carter Carburetor Superfund site is complete, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency transferred the land to the Boys and Girls Club of Greater St. Louis on Wednesday.

The club will work with Gateway Professional Golf Association Reach to redevelop the former industrial plant to a golfing range and recreational space for children in the region.

During the plant's decades of operations it produced oil and diesel carburetors, which led to years of environmental contamination. The 10-acre site ceased operation in 1984. The Environmental Protection Agency listed it as a federal Superfund project in 1992, which enables the government to allocate resources to investigate and clean up locations where there are high levels of hazardous waste.

In 2013, the EPA, rail car company ACF Industries and Carter Building Inc. began the $30 million decontamination project of the location. After Carter Carburetor — one of the nation’s largest carburetor manufacturers — closed its doors, it left behind high levels of hazardous waste, including cancer-causing chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls.

“It’s important that the cleanup is complete, because I think it sends a message to the community at large that this area has not been abandoned,” Flint Fowler, president of Boys and Girls Club of Greater St. Louis, said Wednesday.

The cleanup project came after the EPA and both ACF Industries and Carter Building entered a settlement in which the companies agreed to cover most of the remediation costs.

Directly across North Grand Boulevard from the site sits the Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club. Fowler said that because of the excavations of toxic waste and the demolition of the 480,000-square-foot building, children do not have to see an abandoned building or witness unscrupulous activities.

“I think it will give young people a greater sense of safety,” Fowler said. “I think it will help them to develop a sort of positive and more appropriate psyche.”

Since the closing of the factory, members of the JeffVanderLou neighborhood were worried that the dilapidated building would bring the value of the community down and leave them with unhealthy air quality levels.

The EPA’s administrator, Andrew Wheeler, said that the old carburetor factory was an eyesore to the area and that children across from the site ought to have something that inspires them and not physically harm them.

“Even when the site was contaminated, there were children playing next door,” Wheeler said. “So it was important to get it cleaned up for that alone, but then to turn it into a useful site where we can actually have activities for children at the site is very important.”

Fowler said the new center will also be a place where children can build relationships with coaches to help build their soft skills and improve their golfing performance and confidence in the game.

“There’s an opportunity to see growth, and that gets reinforced day in and day out,” Fowler said. “It doesn’t necessarily take golf to make that happen, but I think golf is a good one-on-one small group-type activity that facilitates that sort of development.”

Fowler said having a golf facility in north St. Louis will expose children to other sports and activities. Children will also gain access to miniature golf, disc golf, walking courses and golf internships.

The Boys and Girls Club of Greater St. Louis plans to begin construction of the golf course and recreational space by the end of the year.

Follow Andrea on Twitter: @drebjournalist

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.

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