How Trash Bag Dumps Become Stunning Parks

Posted by Allen Czermak on

Are you one of those people who constantly complain about the mounds of trash in black garbage bags lining the streets on garbage day? I do not blame anyone for caring about our environment and the allegations that sea creatures are eating plastic garbage bags for lunch. Does the word landfill conjure up a negative connotation in your conscience? Thanks to some great futuristic minds, landfills have been turned into beautiful parks in different cities of our nation as well as mountains as high as ski slopes in the beautiful country of Denmark. 

Trash is buried in landfills preventing the town's garbage from decomposing. By safely putting garbage in specially designated landfills, communities are kept safe from rotting or decomposing garbage. Keeping the landfills dry after the garbage is buried, will cause the garbage to decompose at a much slower pace if at all.  By avoiding the regular decomposing of trash, it will stay buried as is in the ground for an extremely long time, especially when it is treated in a specific way that landfills are being treated nowadays. 

Definition of a Landfill

There are various amounts of layers to a landfill. The function of a landfill is to bury the trash so that it is completely protected from the water that comes from rain and other natural occurrences. By keeping the landfill moisture free and protected from any contact with air, the trash does not decompose quickly. 

1) A clay barrier is created between the soil underneath the garbage and garbage itself. 

2) First the clay barrier is lined with plastic with a drain layer on top. 

3) Leachate Management is a system that will collect any liquid from inside the landfill with a pipe on top of the liner for drainage specifically of the water that comes during a rain episode. 

4) One of the most dangerous effects of a trash dump are the gases that are created mostly, carbon dioxide and methane with small amounts of oxygen and nitrogen. Carbon dioxide can mix with water and be disposed of through the water drain, but methane is less soluble and will usually escape as a gas. This is hazardous since methane can burn and cause explosions if not protected correctly. Pipes are implanted into the landfill to collect the harmful gas. Some communities have learned how to burn methane gas as renewable energy. For example, in the North Wake County Landfill, methane is collected and sold to a nearby chemical company to power its boilers. 

5) The final step in securing the landfill is the final cap. This cover is made of plastic or some type of tarp. These caps seal the compacted trash from air and prevents all types of animals and insects from enjoying the garbage. A newer innovation that seals the garbage but takes up less space is a covering made of a combination of paper and cement that is sprayed on. Above are the five basic steps of a landfill project. Recently landfills have been transformed into beautiful and grand parks. Here are some examples of what science and technology do to transform trash into treasures. 

Landfills Converted to Parks 

1) Freshkills Park, Staten Island, New York

This park is in the works and is supposed to be completed in 2035. FreshKills Park will become the largest park in New York City, and will be three times as large as Central Park! It will include hiking trails, rock climbing and picnic areas. 

2) Tifft Nature Preserve, Buffalo, New York

It seems incongruous that a bird sanctuary could be situated in an area that was a garbage dump in the past. What about the smell? No more smelly air in this beautiful retreat. Instead, there is a wildlife sanctuary and play and recreational areas. It is so beautiful that photographers come to take pictures in this 264-acre park, three miles from downtown Buffalo. 

3) Mount Trashmore Park, Virginia Beach, Virginia

I wonder if the next generation will recognize the connection to the name of this park as a landfill of the past. Presently there are two playgrounds, a 24,000 square foot skating rink and numerous lakes in this beautiful parkland. 

4) Red Rock Canyon Open Space, Colorado Springs, Colorado

The site of a fifty- three-acre landfill has become a public recreational area. Still in the     developing stage, this park will have rock climbing, picnic areas and walking trails. 

5) Cesar Chavez Park, Berkeley, California

Along the San Francisco Bay waterfront, is this hillside park. Wide, open fields on top of a tremendous landfill gives visitors a breathtaking view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The annual Berkeley Kite Festival is a big draw for all levels of kite flyers to compete. All types of wildlife together with exciting hiking trails makes this park a real winner. 

6) Washington Park Arboretum, Seattle, Washington

This amazing site used to be called, The Miller Street Dump, and is now a home for more than forty-thousand trees, vines and shrubs including the famous, Seattle Japanese Garden. Included in this development is a lake that houses turtles and other sea wildlife. 

7) Shirley Chisholm State Park, Brooklyn, New York

Until a couple of years ago, while traveling on the Belt Parkway to and from Brooklyn, I was always accosted, especially in warm weather, with the putrid smell of old garbage from the Pennsylvania Avenue landfill. We would always shut the windows tightly even on the nicest day to prevent the horrible smell from entering our nostrils. Did we ever get used to it? Not really, and today I am happy to say there is no longer a smell emanating from this area in Brooklyn along the Belt Parkway. It is now called Shirley Chisholm State Park. 

When reading about the descriptions of the other six landfill/parks, it is wondrous to read and see the photos of the before and after results. However, living through the building and development of a park in your own state is unbelievable to say the least. This park sits on a mountain of green grass and trees, so serene that anyone who is young enough to not remember the previous landfill cannot come to fully appreciate its beauty. I have not yet had a chance to visit this vista and in truth I still think of it as a garbage dump. Reading about the massiveness of this park, I hope to change my mind. 

The Shirley Chisholm Park sits 130 feet above sea level with a picturesque view of the most famous buildings and bridges of New York City. Over 1.2 million cubic yards of fresh soil was spread on top of the solid impenetrable plastic cap of the landfill. Over 35,000 trees and shrubs along with very high-quality prairie grass makes this park a gorgeous view from the highway. Beautiful birds and local wildlife are now permanent residents of this former landfill. The park boasts ten miles of hiking and biking trails with free bikes on loan to ride through the park. Many benches are available for seniors to rest on and take in the scenic view of the New York skyline. Even a methane gas piping system was installed to help light the two flairs on the property. 

8) Amager Bakke-CopenHill Ski Resort, Copenhagen, Denmark

Although Denmark does get cold enough for skiing in the winter, there are no mountains. To find any skiing, the Danes must drive four hours to Isaberg, Sweden. The time was ripe for skiing in Denmark. 

CopenHill is a heat and waste-to-power plant designed by the architect, Bjarke Ingels in 2017. On the roof of this plant is built a unique winter sports arena including four ski slopes of ranging difficulty. CopenHill, whose purpose was to burn waste, has succeeded in turning the exhaust into heat and electricity to service tens of thousands of citizens of Copenhagen. On the lower level is a 462,848 square foot waste-to-energy plant- with its roof transformed into a ski slope. There are also other recreational options on this unique venue. Hiking in the summer on a defined trail, running up the slope or climbing one the world’s highest climbing walls, there is lots to do for all ages. Bjarke Ingels, one the world’s well-known architects claims that his philosophy can be summed up in six words, “Can saving the world be fun?” 

Cleaning up the oceans and decreasing the use of plastic bags are ways to protect the universe. Turning landfills into recreational facilities is a new phase in the constant desire to clean up the world’s trash. Landfill parks are a bit of an oxymoron when you have known the site before it became a park. Although, I am hesitant to visit the newest and closest landfill park to my door, I am almost certain that my grandchildren will populate these new parks with their children in a heartbeat. What they do not know about the dirty trashy past of these parks will not hurt them. Since the garbage is secured under layers of clay and plastic, all they will see is the pristine green lawns and beautiful shrubbery. My grandchildren may not know who Shirley Chisolm was, (Shirley was the first African American woman to be elected to Congress and even had a brief run for president). but they will still be able to enjoy the amazing park that is named after her.

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