Trash Talk: Trashy landmarks around the world

César Chávez Park has a dirty little secret. The 90-acre public city park in Berkeley, California, that provides panoramic views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, and offers paved hiking trails, a picnic area, a dog park and a wildlife sanctuary is ... a former landfill.

As the George Town Landfill takes its first steps towards a greener future — both figuratively and literally — with its ongoing remediation, Grand Cayman residents can look forward to a day when walking paths grace its landscaped hillside.

Martin Edelenbos, solid waste management engineering coordinator with the Dart-led consortium, says remediation will have a number of important public and environmental health benefits for the Cayman Islands.

“Part of the remediation process is the development of what’s known as a ‘risk-based assessment,' which demonstrates that any potential health risks associated with the current landfill will be addressed and mitigated through remediation,” he says. “Around the world, remediated landfills have been transformed into public parks, golf courses, solar and wind farms, greenspace for wildlife preservation and even agricultural production."

Here are five other parks from across the globe where a trashy landmark has been transformed into a public amenity.

  • Mt. Trashmore Park, Virginia Beach, USA
    Once a 640,000-tonne pile of garbage, this former landfill is now a 165-acre public park encompassing two manmade mountains, two lakes, two playgrounds, a 24,000-square-foot skate park and multi-use paths. Each year, the park attracts more than 1 million visitors to skate, explore and fish.

  • BraeBen Golf Course, Mississauga, Canada
    Originally opened as a landfill in 1980, this 200-acre dump was transformed into a golf course in 2002. Featuring an 18-hole championship course, a 9-hole par-3 course, a teaching academy and full banquet and dining facilities, the former waste mound is now a sought-after vista.

  • Pulau Semakau, Singapore
    Also known as "Trash Island," Pulau Semakau is actually still a working landfill, the only one in the whole country. It was opened to the public in 2005 for recreational activities, including guided walks. The island is home to a coral nursery, seagrass monitoring sites and replanted mangroves that support a variety of fauna.

  • Fresh Kills, Staten Island, USA
    Formerly the world’s largest landfill, Fresh Kills is now a 2,200-acre park, the largest in all of New York City’s boroughs. Construction began in 2008 and is still ongoing, with completion estimated in 2037. In addition to a 46-acre solar array, plans call for nature trails, horseback riding, mountain biking, outdoor dining, sports fields and water sports.
  • Port Sunlight River Park, Mercyside, England
    The 69-acre Port Sunlight River Park opened to the public in 2014 and features a variety of walkways, wildlife, wildflowers and a thriving wetlands area. In a process very similar to what will happen at the George Town Landfill, gas from the former landfill is extracted via a series of pipes and taken to a nearby power plant and converted to electricity.

Edelenbos says the goal of remediating the George Town Landfill is to turn what is currently a national eyesore into an amenity that residents and visitors can enjoy and be proud of.

“One day the George Town Landfill will be like those other transformed landfill parks and visitors will be surprised to learn that it used to be known as Mount Trashmore."

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This article appears in print in the February 2021 edition of Camana Bay Times, written by Hannah Reid.

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