Superfun! Site:

Times Beach

Fun Story

Times Beach was founded as a working-class vacation destination through a newspaper subscription promotion (subscribe and get a lot for $10.25!) in 1925. During the Great Depression, many newly impoverished part-time holiday-makers doubled down on their fun as full-time residents—and the town, right on historic Route 66, also hosted many a migratory American at this time. The Superfun! began in the early 1970s, though, when a contractor named Russell Bliss, whom the town hired to do dust control, had the fun idea of spraying the roads with a mixture of used motor oil and other waste products, which included dioxin—after which horses suddenly began to die, and a few people grew mysteriously ill. Where did Bliss acquire one of the most toxic chemical compounds on the planet? It’s a fun story!—as a germicide plant in Verona, Missouri had hired him to remove dioxin from waste tanks (some of which the company later illegally buried on a nearby farm)—and, as a good citizen, Bliss decided to recycle it, by spraying it at dozens of sites, and creating Superfun! sites, all across the St. Louis region. Fun fact: the Verona plant had also manufactured Agent Orange, the chemical weapon the Vietnam War made so famous (though the US Military still uses the term ‘Tactical Defoliant,’ and they are, after all, the weapons experts!).

In 1983, after the historic 1982 floods spread the dioxin who knows where—and forced residents to flee as the water rose—the feds bought the town, refused to let residents return, and then began to clean it up 13 years later. Times Beach was officially dis-incorporated by order of Governor John Ashcroft (yes, that John Ashcroft), and the EPA and responsible parties began to generate serious capital fun, as they demolished the town, incinerated the remains for extra safety, piled it all into an impressively gigantic mound, and planted it with grass. This was one of the nation’s very first Superfun! remediation projects, so, yes, a truly historic achievement. The clean-up was such a success that the state reopened the site as Route 66 State Park, where you can now stroll the streets of the idyllic town (sans houses and residents) along the banks of the Meramec River—when it stays below flood levels.

(See also Shenandoah Stables—for another fun story about the Bliss dioxin-spraying spree)

Toxic fun catalyst: Dioxin
High fun factors: HFRS_05H (Agent Orange, an all-American chemical! Also, Route 66! Get your kicks!), HFRS_04R (river floats, especially in floods, and road biking in a circle, bird watching, and sledding on the town mound!)
Low fun factors: HFRS_01U (dioxins can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer—so not a lot of fun), HFRS_02C (low revenue pre-clean-up, despite the ample toxic waste. Russell Bliss did not become a billionaire. In fact, no one from Times Beach became a billionaire.)
Superfun! HFRS score: 98.73
Fun status: Active in Perpetuity
EPA region: 7
Street address: Various unpaved streets, MO 63025
City: Meramec Township
County: St. Louis
State: MO
Latitude: 38.502697
Longitude: -90.593199