Welcome to Depot Park, the junction of past and future in downtown Gainesville, Florida.
What was once contaminated earth, the residue from the site’s history as a rail yard, is now a blooming field of wildflowers and native plantings lined by decorative tracks that commemorate this former railroad transportation hub.
The vision for Depot Park was to create a contemporary public greenspace to serve as Gainesville’s “Central Park”. To be a signature city park located downtown and provide a space for public outdoor enjoyment unique to the city.
How did the evolution happen?
The City of Gainesville was awarded a Regional Brownfield Pilot project grant in 1997 by EPA, Region 4. The brownfield site, located in the vicinity of the former railroad depot on Depot Avenue in downtown Gainesville, consisted of a 32-acre tract of land with several landowners and several former sources of contamination (gas stations, cement plant, other industrial operations, railroad activities, petroleum tank farms, manufactured gas plant [MGP], and potentially others). The primary contamination source at the site was coal tar residues from the former MGP.
In 2000, a remedial action plan (RAP) was developed to remediate the site and Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) began “The Big Dig”. The area remediated was excavated to a depth of 50 feet and over 147,000 tons of contaminated soil was removed. Over 40 million gallons of contaminated water was treated and discharged. Contaminated soils removed from the site were transported to an approved landfill for disposal.
In addition, the city wanted ponds designed for the site to capture and treat stormwater from an 89-acre area in downtown Gainesville. The City of Gainesville Public Works Department developed a basin plan and designed a stormwater treatment system to capture the runoff from 47 acres of downtown and runoff from the remaining 42 acres re-routed from the adjacent Sweetwater Branch Creek. The design consist of a treatment train approach where stormwater flows through a series of baffle boxes, forebays, wet detention ponds, a braided stream and wetlands.
In 2012, the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) rehabilitated the Historic Depot Building. Listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the historic train station is a reminder of the important role this site played in Gainesville’s Industrial history. Following the restoration of the building, the CRA began construction of the park amenities at Depot Park. Completed in Summer 2016 after years of planning and restoration, Depot Park features a Children's Play Area with a custom splash pad of tumbling waterfalls, water soakers, and ground jets. A water’s edge promenade hosts special events like food truck rallies, festivals, 5K runs and performances.
The City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs Department manages Depot Park. The park is fully staffed and free to the public. Depot Park is wonderful amenity for the residents and visitors of Gainesville, FL. Depot Park is a place where everyone plays!
A special thank you goes to the individuals and organizations who worked tirelessly to make Depot Park a reality.