Pitfalls of turning Puente Hills Landfill into a park

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Building a park on top of 130 million tons of Los Angeles County’s trash can be tricky.

“There is a 3 percent settlement rate per year,” said Michael Hughes, a longtime Hacienda Heights resident and Puente Hills Landfill neighbor who has been waiting for this moment for more than 30 years. “So they can’t put much in terms of permanent infrastructure, which is unfortunate.”

Last week, the county Board of Supervisors made the first move toward turning the shuttered Puente Hills Landfill near the intersection of the 605 and 60 freeways into a regional park of about 600 acres by accepting $814,000 from the county Sanitation Districts, the former operators of the landfill.

The Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation will use the money to hire a parks designer who will gather public input and sketch several designs as part of an overall master plan for the new Puente Hills County Regional Park, said Russ Guiney, director of county Parks and Recreation.

Most likely, the planner will take “a practical approach,” Guiney said, staying away from ball fields and buildings and instead, as Hughes puts it, focus on “trails and trees.”

That’s because for the next 25 years, the top of the landfill overlooking Whittier in the south and Hacienda Heights to the east, where as much as 13,000 tons of trash were deposited per day for 57 years, can be unstable as household garbage decomposes and the surface shifts.

“On the top-fill area of about 200 acres the landfill is sinking slowly as it compacts. It will take some time for everything to settle,” Guiney said.

Read more in Steve Scauzillo’s story PARK.

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