RALEIGH — With the jungle gyms and slides keeping them busy, the kids playing Saturday at Wake County's newest park didn't take much notice of the giant, grassy hill nearby.
But the park's namesake hill, and the 5 million tons of trash it took to build it, are exactly what sets it apart.
In a short ceremony celebrating the county's $1.4 million recycling project, officials on Saturday opened North Wake Landfill District Park off Durant Road in northeast Raleigh. The 36-acre park features two hilltop observation areas, a picnic shelter, and trails for walking and biking. There are two connections to a Raleigh greenway.
Park designers literally turned trash into treasure. The park, though, has a different feel than most.
From the main entrance off Deponie Drive, visitors are reminded of the site's original function. Residents are still able to drop off recycling and household trash. The giant hill has pipes sticking out of it, which collect and remove water that leaches from the landfill.
In the distance, flames rise from an apparatus like a smokestack. Decaying trash generates methane, and a nearby manufacturer uses some to heat its boilers. The rest of the gas must be burned off.
Rather than take away from the experience, county officials hope the atmosphere teaches visitors a little bit about what happens to their trash.
"It's really part of the environmental education that the park's trying to provide," said Matt Roylance, deputy director of Wake County environmental services.
The landfill closed in 2008. At 468 feet above sea level, the hill's crest is one of the highest points in Wake County. A bike ride or walk to the top presents visitors with a view of the city skyline. Although landfill-to-park projects are becoming popular nationwide, officials don't know of another one in this region.
No smoking or grilling
The park features sparkling rest rooms and brand-new playground equipment, but is missing one traditional piece of American park equipment: barbecue grills.
Because of the methane in the area, officials decided against installing grills near the picnic shelter, said Chris Snow, Wake County director of parks, recreation and open space. Smoking and open flames are banned.
"We're just trying to play it safe," Snow said, adding that methane would need to be in a confined area to ignite. Grills may be added later.
For folks who live nearby, a grassy hill and bike trails are a big improvement over trash trucks and funky odors.
Richard Barton and his wife, Lee, brought their two children to the park for the grand opening. They have lived within walking distance of the landfill for 10 years, but now have a reason to walk in that direction.
"It makes the whole area usable," Richard Barton said. "We're all really excited about it."
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