The Trash Blog

Landfill Afterlives

So what happens to a landfill after it dies? after it is capped off and closed? We’ve written a little bit about how managing companies are responsible for monitoring landfills for 30 years after closure to watch for seepage into groundwater, and other potential hazards. But is that it?

Sometimes. But sometimes not. We’ve visited a few landfills-turned-public-parks, heard about a landfill-turned-ski-slope, and read about several landfills-turned-nature-reserves.

This photo is not just crooked because of my novice photography skills. This golf course is incredibly bumpy.

This photo is not just crooked because of my novice photography skills. This golf course is incredibly bumpy.

We recently visited the Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix to find out about another landfill afterlife. The course is built upon the old Deer Valley Landfill which closed in 1976 (the year my parents were married! how momentous). The course opened 6 years later, in 1983. Today Cave Creek is Phoenix’s most popular public golf course with 60,000+ rounds played annually.


Some golfers keepin it cool at the ‘fill.

We learned about this site on a tip from our most avid follower. So, we met up with our reader (who also happens to be my uncle and good friend) and hit the course.

We felt like we needed an ATV as we approached the course. Apparently this driveway was leveled out not one year ago.

We felt like we needed an ATV as we approached the course. Apparently this driveway was leveled out not one year ago.

Even parking was an adventure in balance.

Even parking was an adventure in balance.

The course manager on duty, Robert, was interested in our story and even let us use one of the golf carts to cruise around the course. This led to no end of amusement for me, as well as stress, as I was terrified of rolling straight into a green and rousing the wrath of righteous golfers.

The course is incredibly (incredibly!) bumpy, so that I constantly felt like we were about to tip over (no, it wasn’t just me performing pop wheelies). Apparently this is due to the uneven settling rates of the garbage below. Robert said that golfers like this as it adds to the course’s challenge. But, this can also add to the peril of traversing the course. Apparently they used to have electric carts, but the carts couldn’t hack the rough terrain and were constantly giving out (and leaving disgruntled golfers abandoned on the green). So, they have recently had to switch to beefier gasoline carts.

The terrain is also constantly changing as the trash settles, perhaps further adding to the golfer’s challenge? It definitely adds to the challenge of course maintenance as some of the greens have been swallowed by rapid settling. The 6th green recently had to be entirely recreated as the original one sunk away to oblivion.

Though we were told that you’d have no idea that the course was built on a landfill, I did read in a few articles that garbage can sometimes leak out after a heavy rain. We didn’t see any evidence of this during our visit, but it was also 110º and dry as a bone.

Cave Creek Golf Course calls itself “a pioneer… in environmental golf course design. Success stories like Cave Creek prove that these sites [landfills] can be put to worthwhile and environmentally friendly uses.” In fact, there are more than 70 landfills-turned-golf-courses in the US. But should we be touting these as environmental success stories? I tend to think it’s dangerous anytime we celebrate the fruit of a necessary (?) evil (like in the case of landfill gas recovery), and call it ‘sustainable.’ On the other hand, there may be something to be said for keeping closed landfills in the public eye. If something were to go awry (as I believe it inevitably will), making the landfill a public space may increase the chances that it is caught earlier, rather than if the landfill was entirely ‘out of site, out of mind.’

This entry was written by Margaret and published on June 20, 2013 at 3:23 pm. It’s filed under Community, History, Landfills, MSW, Re-Use and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

3 thoughts on “Landfill Afterlives

  1. Out on a golf coarse in Phoenix. Now this is a topic I can wrap my head around. Did you get to play or at least swing the clubs a few times?

    • Uncle Chris on said:

      Mr. Corrigan (Terry).

      Our ride in the golf cart was challenging enough. . . . Our survival should be considered in the same light as a birdie, if not an eagle. (heh . . . heh . . . heh)

      Hope all is well in Bellingham and with you and your family. It was great to have Phil and Margaret here in Phoenix for five days!

  2. Pingback: Zombie Landfill | The Trash Blog

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