Category 2: Planning and Urban Design
Name of Project: Platte River Commons
Project Location: Casper, Wyoming
Project Type: Restoration and Reuse Planning
Date of Completion: Construction scheduled for completion in 2007
Owner/Client: British Petroleum and Century Pacific LP
Purpose of the Project:
The Platte River Commons is a highly contaminated, 350-acre oil refinery site being restored to productive
community use through the collaboration of the greater Casper community and British Petroleum (BP), owner of
the refinery site. The innovative reuse plan and landscape architecture planning utilize the inherent natural healing
powers of the Wyoming ecosystem to cleanse the site of contaminants. The design integrates a phytoremediation
drainage system, a riverside park, a section of Casper’s extensive Platte River regional walkway and nature
corridor, an office complex, a golf course and cultural facilities to turn a derelict site into a legacy park for
In 1998, the legal battle drove a wedge between the community, Amoco (owners of the refinery site at that time)
and regulators. At that time it was hard to imagine that this seemingly hopeless impasse could evolve into a
successful collaboration of all stakeholders and a model for using ecologically based landscape architecture to
assist with cleaning up refinery sites and brownfields.
The contaminated old Amoco Refinery in Casper, has been transformed to productive use through the
collaboration of the owner, reuse team, the community and the regulatory agencies. The reuse plan evolution took
place in four stages: The development of a risk-based cleanup approach; outreach to the community resulting in a
Community Reuse Sketch Plan; development of a Reuse Master Plan and Reuse Agreement between the Joint
Powers Board and owners; and the development of the Final Reuse and Remediation Implementation Process and
Plans. Each of these stages and documents demonstrated innovation in planning, design and the collaborative
The landscape architect participated with the owner on a collaborative planning process with the community to
develop a reuse plan that will put the property into productive use for the community and result in regulatory
closure for British Petroleum. Planting and grading plans provided two major functions: To allow for the
development of passive and active recreation zones and for phytoremediation that provides the cleanup of the site.
This strategy and resulting plan will heal the ecosystem, and the relationship between the community and one of
its long-time employers and areas of the economy.
Quality of Design:
The detailed site development and landscape plan integrates economics, remediation science and community
values. The plan utilizes the aesthetic and healing powers of the indigenous Wyoming landscape. This landscape
design of the prairie cottonwood, grassland meadow, and meandering waterway consciously reflects the unique
quality of the native Wyoming prairie landscape in the overall site design that has been developed in the
following four integrated but distinct zones.
The North Platte River Park Corridor
The corridor along the North Platte River has been designed to restore the natural composition of native riparian
plant communities. The design is intended to create a healthy reach of river edge plantings that naturally transition
into the wet meadow – second bottom character of a natural riparian ecosystem. This planting design also will
Category 2: Planning and Urban Design
provide bank stabilization, shade for fish and wildlife, and food, shelter and breeding habitat for birds and
mammals that use the river’s riparian edge at various times throughout the seasons. Walkways, bike paths, picnic
areas and river overlooks are threaded through the park and are located to compliment the natural setting.
A component of this park is a proposed phytoremediation forest that will cleanse contaminated soil and treats
groundwater resources. This planting will consist of several thousand poplars and willow trees in a 20-acre area
immediately south of the barrier wall along the river. Cultural practices will include the installation of perforated
PVC pipes that will allow passive aeration of the subsurface and groundwater. This system not only stimulates the
formation of deep roots but will also provide oxygen for the aerobic biodegradation of contaminants.
The Cottonwood Spine
The inspiration for the parkway landscape design is drawn from the classic meandering, at-grade cottonwood
lined prairie roads along drainage ways found throughout Wyoming. The parkway therefore, is designed with
gently sweeping drifts of predominantly cottonwood trees and wildflower and native grass meadows transitioning
into the adjacent landscapes.
Golf-Course Upland Plantings
Native evergreens and shade trees typically found in Wyoming uplands areas will be planted throughout the golf
course to create safety barriers, screen views of equipment, provide seasonal interest, wind protection and
remediation of the site. Recovery wells will be located mostly in the roughs throughout the golf course where
there are high concentrations of contaminated soils. The irrigation ponds and river fed lakes will be planted with
native wetland plants and regularly maintained to assist with water filtering.
The 7-acre system of constructed wetlands, ponds and phytoremediation plantings create a visually dominant
green corridor that meander through the site connecting the use areas with the added benefit of having created a
new wildlife habitat. The site wetlands use plant and aquatic life as a form of living infrastructure, to clean water
naturally of contaminants. Contaminated water is filtered through wetland basins where the water is re-oxygenated
through a series of falls and recycled either back into the river or irrigation ponds depending on the
final level of cleanliness. An upland evergreen and shade tree plant community, surrounded with sweeping drifts
of wildflower and native grass meadows, provide the backdrop for all of these remediation systems.
Role of the landscape architect
Since 1998, the landscape architect has collaborated with the community, oil company, remediation engineers and
reuse developer, to convert this vision and need to clean the site into the reuse master plan and the detailed site
and landscape plans. The landscape architect integrated reuse and remediation plans by designing the park system,
commercial areas, community facilities, grading and drainage systems and integrating the constructed wetlands
and phytoremediation systems into the overall concept that provide functional, aesthetic and wildlife value. This
project demonstrates the power of landscape architects to create a beautiful, functioning environment from a
contaminated site in a highly contentious legal situation. The landscape architect and remediation engineers
representing BP transformed the community’s vision into a clean-up strategy and reuse master plan that features
landscape systems as a significant element of the remediation process.
Significance – Platte River Commons is becoming recognized as a model for how to resolve the deep conflicts
between industry and communities blighted with contaminated industrial sites. The State Department of Ecology
has received a national EPA award for its role in the process. Casper has been designated by the National League
of Cities as an All-American city, largely on the merits of the refinery project.
Click tabs to swap between content that is broken into logical sections.