Thoughts Turn Again to Climbing & Skiing at Cedar Rapids' Mt. Trashmore

By Rick Smith, Reporter

Mount Trashmore rises over Cedar Rapids on Friday, July 20. 2012. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)

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By Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - But for the 2008 flood, you might already be able to hike to the top of and ski down the now-218-foot-tall pile of garbage fondly called Mount Trashmore.

The landfill, officially termed Site 1 by the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency, had closed in July 2007, only to reopen in the aftermath of the June 2008 flood to take in 430,000 tons of debris from the flood and from the demolition of some 1,100 homes, 560 garages and sheds and 110 commercial properties.

The landfill now has closed again, and the Solid Waste Agency once again is imagining what the future might hold for the mountain of trash that looms along the Cedar River just southeast of downtown.

"I’m really excited about the possibilities for the public," Karmin McShane, executive director of the Solid Waste Agency, said this week. "It’s a great view."

The Solid Waste Agency board of directors now has created a board committee to study the future uses for Mount Trashmore.

McShane told the board this week that 85 percent of the clay cap is installed at the top of the landfill, the piping system in the landfill to capture methane created by trash decomposition has been repaired and the sides and top of the landfill that had been reopened will be seeded in the future.

McShane said it’s easy to imagine the creation of a trail to the top of the landfill, but she said such an addition won’t happen immediately. The agency will need to make sure that no methane is migrating from the site and it will need to watch to see how the trash begins to settle. Much that now has been placed at the top of the landfill is heavy construction debris, which she said will contribute to settling.

Back in January 2008, City Council members Pat Shey and Tom Podzimek led a skiing outing on Mount Trashmore to emphasize what it one day might become.

Some years before, legendary Cedar Rapids Mayor Don Canney used to look out his third-floor City Hall window at Mount Trashmore and talk about how outdoor enthusiasts one day would ski down it.

The flood of 2008 put the landfill back in service and changed all that.

The mountain is now 30 feet taller than it was back when Shey and Podzimek strapped on skis with the addition of 430,000 tons of flood debris, McShane reported.

Dale Todd, a board member of the Iowa Epilepsy Foundation, sent a letter to McShane on Thursday asking when Mount Trashmore would be ready for recreational activities.

Todd said the foundation had been discussing a "thigh-burn, lung-busting Race to the Top" fundraising event with the Solid Waste Agency at the time of the 2008 flood.

"Dale has been talking about a race with the Iowa Epilepsy Foundation since the first closure," McShane said. "The good news is with the new closure we can start planning for it again."

The agency’s 10-year plan calls for the area around the base of the landfill to continue to be used for the agency’s compost operation and to provide a drop-off facility for recyclables.

For many years, the agency will tend to the landfill, evening out places as garbage continues to decompose and the landfill settles. It’s expected to lose about 30 feet in height over time, the agency has said.

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