CEDAR RAPIDS — People scaling Mount Trashmore’s 200-foot elevation will check in before exploring the trails at a new visitors center at the base of the closed landfill.
Building 948 — named for Mount Trashmore’s elevation above sea level — is opening on Aug. 1, welcoming back hikers and mountain bikers to the trails.
“In the solid waste world, this is extremely innovative,” said Zac Hornung, recreation coordinator for the Mount Trashmore trails and overlook.
More than 4,300 people visited the Mount Trashmore trails in 2019.
The Trashmore Trail is for bikes only and is a “mountain bikers dream,” Hornung said. It is complete with switchback turns and rollers or humps in the trail.
The Overlook and Stumptown trails are for walking only and are less than a mile.
To the south of Building 948 is a patio that leads into a hard-surface trail that is 400 meters around, Hornung said. That trail complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines.
The building, which was a $2 million project by the Linn County Solid Waste Agency, will provide infrastructure for the trails on Mount Trashmore. It was paid for through post-closure funds for Mount Trashmore collected through tipping fees, which were paid when people brought waste to the now former landfill.
The trails, which initially opened in 2018, were closed in October 2019 for construction and reopened this month.
What to know about hiking at Mount Trashmore
When visitors get to the building, they will sign a waiver assuming risk if property is damaged while biking or if someone gets hurt on the trail. Only one waiver needs to be signed annually.
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There are public restrooms, bike stations to fill tires with air or make other repairs, and a hydration station.
The Linn County Solid Waste Agency board of directors plans to conduct future meetings from this location instead of at the landfill at 1954 County Home Road in Marion. Right now, they are still meeting remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dogs are allowed on the trails, but must be kept on a leash.
Bikes with tires 2 inches or thicker are recommended for the bike trail, and a helmet is strongly recommended.
Strollers can only be used on the Overlook Trail.
The mountain, which contains roughly 6 million tons of garbage, still is settling 8 to 10 feet each season, Hornung said.
Linn County Solid Waste Agency Director Karmin McShane said people are “quite amazed they’re walking on garbage” when they visit Mount Trashmore.
Opening the closed landfill to recreation is an educational opportunity that tells the story of how trash is managed, she said.
“And it’s the best view of the city of Cedar Rapids,” McShane said.
Ongoing maintenance of the site is critical to keeping the trails safe for hiking and biking, especially after a heavy rain, McShane said.
It doesn’t smell like a landfill
The landfill is regulated by the Department of Natural Resources and monitored by the Linn County Solid Waste Agency.
There are 47 gas collection wells on the side of Mount Trashmore.
“You won’t smell it,” said Joe Horaney, Linn County Solid Waste Agency communications director. “(The gas wells) are collecting the gasses, which go over to the other side of Mount Trashmore and is burned off. It destroyed 99 percent of harmful gasses, and the only smell is the beautiful natural smell of compost.”
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The landfill first opened in 1965 and closed in 2012. While the landfill is closed, it still is an active composting site, collecting 30,000 pounds of compost annually.
The trails are open seasonally Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m., and Sundays from 8 a.m. to noon.
Hours will be adjusted in the fall as the sun sets earlier.
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