Mount Trashmore’s Future Will Unfold Over Decades, Not Years
By Rick Smith, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Representatives of the Solid Waste Agency have toured the nation’s largest landfill on Staten Island, N.Y., to get a glimpse of what the future might hold closer to home for the landfill popularly called Mount Trashmore.
A key lesson learned: A closed landfill’s transformation into something else takes decades, not years.
Don’t expect to be skiing regularly down Mount Trashmore in winter any time soon, even if two Cedar Rapids council members did back in early 2008, added Brent Oleson, a Linn County supervisor and agency board member who made the New York trip.
Nonetheless, Oleson envisioned the day when the agency would tout Mount Trashmore with the tag line, “Trash to Trails.”
He and four other representatives of the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency made the trip in late September to the former Fresh Kills Landfill in New York on that facility’s fourth annual “Sneak Peek” event, which is designed to give the public a chance to imagine what the emerging Freshkills Park on the former landfill will be like.
Oleson and Steve Hershner, Cedar Rapids’ utilities director and an agency board member who also made the New York trip, said they would expect similar public open houses at Mount Trashmore in the near-term to give residents a taste of the view atop 208 feet of trash and a feel for what is to come.
Oleson imagined the landfill could open to the public for other special events in the next year or two, such as road races to the top, with additional low-impact uses becoming more common in the course of the next decade or so. Landfills settle for years, and Hershner said it could take 20 years for the trash in the Cedar Rapids landfill to “consolidate.”
The Fresh Kills Landfill and Mount Trashmore – the landfill along the Cedar River below downtown Cedar Rapids which the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency calls Site 1– share common traits: Both are next to water; both offer great views of a city; and both have ambitions to be public parks.
The most significant similarity is this: Both closed, both reopened to take in debris from a disaster, and then closed again. In Fresh Kills’ case, it reopened to take in debris from 9/11. In Mount Trashmore’s, it reopened to accept debris from Cedar Rapids’ 2008 flood and the city’s subsequent flood recovery.
Karmin McShane, the agency’s executive director, Marie DeVries, the agency’s planner, and Cedar Rapids council member Justin Shields, the agency’s board chairman, joined Oleson and Hershner on the trip to New York.
The Fish Kills Landfill is 2,200 acres in size, Mount Trashmore, 65 acres at its base.
McShane noted that parts of the Fish Kills Landfill have been closed for more than 20 years, and yet, those parts are still not open for general public use except on special days.
The five from the Solid Waste Agency joined hundreds of local residents at the New York landfill’s Sneak Peek event, which featured kayaking, pony rides, kite-flying and science talks about native grasses and landfill gas.
They learned, for instance, that the city officials in New York City have employed goats to eat invasive weeds as the officials work to establish a variety of native grasses on the landfill.
McShane called the expansive New York landfill “a beautiful open space.” Hershner said it provided a one-of-a-kind view of the New York City skyline, adding that the diversity of birds attracted to the open spot was “incredible.”
Shields said he could see the potential for Mount Trashmore by seeing it in New York.
It really gets you thinking,” he said.
DeVries said she found that some who had lived next to the working New York landfill for many years might be a “tough audience” to try to convince that a landfill could become a park. At the same time, a newer employee at the hotel next to an older section of the landfill didn’t realize that the park-like expanse next to the hotel had ever been a landfill, she added.
For now, the Solid Waste Agency's board is planning to hire an expert to create a new master plan for the Mount Trashmore site, which first started taking in trash in 1965. The landfill closed in 2006, reopened after the 2008 flood, and closed again in 2012. This year the work to cap the site is now being completed.
Oleson said it might be too early to have the public weigh in with ideas for Mount Trashmore’s future. He said the Fish Kills Landfill sought ideas from the public early on only to create “false expectations” when some ideas proved unworkable, he said.
The agency operates its Site 2 landfill and recycling operation at County Home Road and Highway 13, and the agency continues to use Site 1 for composting, wood recovery and recycling.
What's On KCRG