Staff Columnist

You know 'Mount Trashmore.' But are you ready for 'Smeti?'

The view of downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa, from a scenic overlook atop the Cedar Rapids Linn County Solid Waste Agency's capped landfill, aka Mount Trashmore, at 2250 A Street SW in southwest Cedar Rapids on Thursday, April 19, 2018. People will get an opportunity to experience the view for themselves during Ecofest. Buses will shuttle people to the top to see the views and learn about the pavilion and trail system being built on the site. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
The view of downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa, from a scenic overlook atop the Cedar Rapids Linn County Solid Waste Agency's capped landfill, aka Mount Trashmore, at 2250 A Street SW in southwest Cedar Rapids on Thursday, April 19, 2018. People will get an opportunity to experience the view for themselves during Ecofest. Buses will shuttle people to the top to see the views and learn about the pavilion and trail system being built on the site. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Soon, we’ll finally get our chance to climb new trails ascending Mount Trashmore and enjoy the municipal vistas from its commanding overlook.

But Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart suspects we’d rather get sweaty climbing “Mount Smeti.”

Hart said he plans to ask the Cedar Rapids-Linn County Solid Waste Agency Board to consider an official name for the former landfill heap rising above downtown, the Czech Village and New Bohemia. And he doesn’t think that name should be Trashmore, anymore.

Hart’s preferred name for the reclaimed landfill — rising 920 feet above sea level and 210 feet above the banks of the nearby Cedar River — is “Mount Smeti,” or Czech for rubbish, garbage, etc.

He said a name discussion can wait until after a planned Sept. 6 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the trail system and overlook.

“But after that, we’re going to start. Because I have had lots and lots of people from outside the community say why would I want to set foot on something called Mount Trashmore?” Hart told our editorial board this past week.

“I can see, ‘I Climbed Mount Smeti.’ That’s a cooler T-shirt than ‘I Climbed Mount Trashmore,’ to me,” said Hart, who predicts the public will want to weigh in with ideas. “It doesn’t have to be Mount Smeti,” Hart said.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Smeti does have T-shirt possibilities, I suppose. There’s the aforementioned “sweaty.” Maybe kids would like to snap a selfie with its mascot, the Smeti yeti.

But I’ve always liked “Mount Trashmore.” It’s funny, a little snarky, and it fits. It’s a man-made mound with moniker that bubbled up organically, sort of like methane. That’s how brands with staying power are born. It’s outlasted multiple “corridors.”

Sure, the original Mount Trashmore is in Virginia Beach, Va., also a reclaimed landfill mound turned into an outdoor recreation area. But who cares if America has two Trashmores? There were four Todds in my elementary school, and yet I flourished, despite my parents’ unoriginality.

But you can’t blame a mayor for trying. Hart’s predecessor, Ron Corbett, once sought to smite the longtime “City of the Five Smells” punch line, to no avail.

The new mayor faces an uphill fight against humor, habit and history.

Based on a hike through the archives, the first reference to the landfill as “Mount Trashmore” was published on Sept. 19, 1978. It came just a month after Virginia Beach’s Trashmore opened.

The fateful story featured quotes from Dick Gates of the city sanitation department.

“Gates said when the landfill opened in 1965, there were some spots that went 600 feet deep,” reported The Gazette. “Today, there is a towering pile of refuse which is affectionately called ‘Mount Trashmore’ by City Hall wits.”

So it’s “City Hall wits” who deserve the credit/blame. Who knew they existed?

And in January 1979 came the first public objection to the name “Trashmore.”

“Although some people refer to the city landfill as “Mount Trashmore,” City Planning Director Don Salyer would prefer a better name if a proposed ski slope is developed at the site,” The Gazette reported on Jan. 7, 1979, in a story on Mayor Don Canney’s appointment of a committee to explore using the landfill as a future ski slope.

In June and July 1979, The Gazette’s “Around the Town” column solicited naming ideas from readers and asked them to vote for their favorites. The winners were “Mount Trashski” and “Mount Fillimanjaro,” although the column noted voter participation was “not exactly overwhelming.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“There was no groundswell of opinion, which probably tells us people won’t get concerned about the hill until they can do something besides dump trash on it,” Around the Town opined.

In 1981, we reported “CR skiers may be swooshing on city garbage hill in 10 years.” In 1985, The Gazette’s headline predicted “Skiers may descend on Trashmore next winter.” Not so much. Through all the years and all the articles, the Trashmore name stuck.

Skip ahead to January 2008, when then City Council members Tom Podzimek and Pat Shey slapped on their skis to highlight Trashmore’s potential. On that day, high above the city, Podzimek took his spot in history as another public official advocating a name change. His preferred moniker was “Krasna Hora,” or “beautiful mountain” in Czech.

With that, some newish columnist saw fish in a barrel and loaded up, asking locals to sound off on Trashmore and float proposed names.

I received lots of suggestions — “Trashna Hora,” “Mount Cedarview,” “Junkfrau,” “Mount Everwaste” and “Canney Hill,” just to name a few. I tossed in “Mount Crunch Berry.” Not popular.

But after multiple columns and online posts, no consensus emerged. Well, no consensus other than sticking with Mount Trashmore.

Little did we know then the Flood of 2008 would force the reopening of Trashmore as a landfill, building its elevation with flood debris from the deluged city below. Dreams of skis and recreation were put on hold for several years.

Now, as we near the mountaintop, at last, here we go again with the name game.

But this time, we’re not talking about Mount Trashmore the dump. We’re talking about the high-profile recreation destination overlooking all the big investments being made in the city’s core, from Cedar Lake through downtown and New Bohemia, across the planned “Sleeping Giant” pedestrian bridge and into Czech Village. A civically-minded push to trash Trashmore could be stronger than before.

I, for one, hope not. But what do I know?

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Well, I do know what will happen if it’s officially renamed Smeti, or something else. So does the mayor.

“It will always be Mount Trashmore to most of us,” he said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8262; todd.dorman@thegazette

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

CONTINUE READING

Want to join the conversation?

Consider subscribing to TheGazette.com and participate in discussing the important issues to our community with other Gazette subscribers.

Already a Gazette or TheGazette.com subscriber? Just login here with your account email and password.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.