116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - The long-anticipated makeover of Mount Trashmore, as the old landfill is affectionately known, is underway, but a ski hill or a timber-filled peak - which some had wished for - aren't in the plans.
Instead, visitors will get an observation deck from atop Mount Trashmore, 2250 A St. SW. - one of the highest points in Cedar Rapids - offering panoramic views of downtown, factories, neighborhoods and forests along the Cedar River.
Trails for walking and bikes will wind up the side of the 208-foot-tall mound that grew from trash over 50 years.
'There's been so much interest for so long,” said Joe Horaney, spokesman for the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency. 'But it's a regulated site with wells popping up, so we can't do skiing or sledding or plant trees. The best we can do is provide this as an overlook and trails for hiking.”
From the 16th Avenue Bridge over the Cedar River, one can see dump trucks have been hauling dirt - more than 4,000 cubic yards over the past two weeks - up the spiraling driveway to the top. Up close, construction vehicles are compacting and leveling clay-based soil into the landing destination.
'I think it's kind of funny,” said Chloe Rosdail, 26, who lives nearby and noticed the activity while out for a bike ride in Czech Village on Monday.
Garrett Felling, 31, who was with her, added, 'It's a trash hill they are turning into a tourist destination.”
The two said they want to check out the landing when it opens, but Felling added it will be a steep climb.
When complete, people will be able to access the top during business hours at the Solid Waste Agency site, which continues to operate a composting operation at the old landfill.
Those hours are 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Winter hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The $590,00 project, which began two weeks ago, includes construction of the overlook, with four levels of terraced seating, a curved retaining wall, a stone walkway, posts and markers and demolition of the old scale house.
Woodruff Construction, which has an office in Iowa City, is handling the pavilion and demolition project, which is due for completion in October.
The $185,000 trail project still must be designed but should be finished by next spring, Horaney said.
An 18-acre pollinator zone also will be planted on top of the hill, thanks to a grant from Monarch Watch, Horaney said.
The riverside landfill, about a mile from the core of the downtown, opened in 1965 in what had been the Otis Quarry. It had closed for good on July 31, 2006, but the Solid Waste Agency received special permission to reopen it to bury debris from the flood of 2008. Officials estimated 430,000 tons of flood debris were piled on, adding 32 to 34 feet to the landfill height before it closed for good in late 2012.
Dirt, four feet of clay and geo-membrane liners sealed the landfill, and officials have been waiting for a few years to let the landfill settle and ensure the site is safe, Horaney said.
Wells used for testing are placed throughout the hill, Horaney said.
Austin Broshar, an on-site project representative for HDR Inc. of Omaha, which is the engineering consultant, said his firm has been working with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources solid waste division to ensure compliance in repurposing the old landfill to public use. He said the project is designed to accommodate the continued settling of the trash.
The site will remain regulated and monitored for a minimum of 30 years to ensure gas emissions are safe and that the cap hasn't been breached, Horaney said.
The site has remained off limits to the general public, but in the past couple years it's hosted five to seven special events and fundraisers, such as the Trashmore 5K - Dash to Bash Epilepsy, and groups have gained permission to take tours to the top.
Jennifer Pruden, executive director of the Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street District, said the enhancement will be welcome and should fit nicely with a greenway planned between A and C streets SW. The landing - close to the Cedar River Trail, which is part of a popular regional bike trial - will create another attraction and destination for people passing through, she said.
'I hear the view is amazing, perhaps the best vantage point in the city to look over the downtown area,” Pruden said. 'We don't have a lot of hills in this area, so it's nice to have that as a challenge for runs and bike events.”
Mount Trashmore has long been off-limits and, given its history as a landfill, going to the top has been a sort of taboo thrill, she said. She said she wonders how that lore will carry on once it becomes more accessible.
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