Mount Trashmore taking another step toward transformation

Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency Board picks Wisconsin environmental firm for master plan

CEDAR RAPIDS — Mount Trashmore has taken another step toward a new future.

The Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency Board on Tuesday picked a Wisconsin engineering and environmental firm from among four finalists to develop a master plan for how the agency’s now-closed riverside landfill near downtown will function in the future and fit into the city around it.

Karmin McShane, the agency’s executive director, said the redevelopment experience of Ayers Associates, Eau Claire, Wis., with riverfront redevelopments and landfill reclamations "give us a lot of hope" for the coming transformation of the agency’s Site 1 landfill affectionately called Mount Trashmore.

McShane said she is guilty of thinking of the landfill as "a site," but she said the Ayers firm has shown how the 208-foot tall hill of trash one day can blend into the neighborhoods around it and change how residents see it and see from it.

Bill Micheel, the agency’s supervisor at the Site 1 landfill, said the newly capped landfill was seeded last fall to provide the hill with cover to prevent erosion. Come spring, the agency will plant permanent native grasses on the landfill, which Micheel said should make the place look like a native prairie this summer, weather permitting, he said.

Micheel said Ayers’ master plan will focus both on the aesthetics and the functionality of the landfill, which is 208 feet tall and 65 acres at its base and is expected to lose about 30 feet of height to settling in future years.

Micheel said the Solid Waste Agency Board decided in 2012 to continue to operate the agency’s compost facility at the base of the closed landfill and to use as it as a drop-off for yard waste and most recyclables.

As a result, the new master plan will need address how the site can provide outdoor and recreational opportunities even as it functions as a compost and recycling operation while the agency continues to manage the collection of methane from decomposing garbage.

"The whole idea is to turn it into a community asset where people will want to go," Micheel said.

Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson, chairman of the Solid Waste Agency board, said he doubted Mount Trashmore would become a place for downhill skiing, remembering the winter of 2008 when Cedar Rapids City Council members Pat Shey and Tom Podzimek spent an afternoon skiing down the hill of trash and imaging how it might be used.

Oleson said the landfill’s gas-collection wells and uneven topography likely will preclude downhill skiing, but he said he could see hiking trails around and on the hill. He also said he’d like to see a lot of trees on the hill, too, but the roots of trees might penetrate the landfill’s protective membrane, he said.

"I’d like to call it Mount Treemore instead of Mount Trashmore, but I’m not sure if planting trees is an option," Oleson said.

Micheel estimated that the landfill master plan will cost the agency between $130,000 and $135,000. The four finalists competing for the work bid between $100,000 and $300,000, though cost was only one of several factors in the selection, he said.

What has become Mount Trashmore opened in 1965 along the Cedar River in what had been the Otis Quarry. It had closed for good on July 31, 2006, leaving the Solid Waste Agency with just one landfill, Site 2 at County Home Road and Highway 13. However, the agency received special permission to reopen Site 1 when Cedar Rapids needed a nearby place to bury debris from the flood of 2008. Some 430,000 tons of flood debris went into Site 1, adding 32 to 34 feet to the landfill height, before it closed for good in late 2012.

In May, the agency's plan is to let participants in the classic car show at Houby Days in Czech Village drive to the top of Mount Trashmore to take photographs of the city below, Micheel said.

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