Alpha Ridge Landfill park all but ready to open

August 11, 1994|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Sun Staff Writer

Planned for 15 years, the county's first landfill park is just about finished -- with one nagging exception.

The Alpha Ridge Community Park, on about 72 acres on the northern edge of the 590-acre Alpha Ridge Landfill in Marriottsville, has brightly colored, molded-plastic playground equipment, baseball backstops, playing fields, picnic pavilions and tennis and basketball courts. As soon as the grass is well-rooted and the fields are playable, the park will open -- probably next spring.

But, said John Byrd, chief of the county Bureau of Parks, the potential for ground-water contamination from the landfill will mean portable chemical toilets in wooden kiosks will be provided instead of flush toilets and sinks with running water.

"We have a problem with facilities at this point. We'll probably have to use temporary facilities," he said, until public water is extended to the area -- which could take two years.

Part of the landfill is still operating. On-site monitoring has shown some ground-water contamination, and the county planned to provide public water in the area after complaints from residents.

Although ground-water contamination has not shown up conclusively in residential well tests, concern that it might prompted County Executive Charles I. Ecker to push for public water for the area, now served only by well and septic systems.

Some residents have said they thought the park's development had been accelerated to appease them, but Mr. Ecker denied that.

"I've been accused of that by some people," he said. "But I just felt we needed more fields in that area and we need to get along with developing that park in accordance with the recreation and parks master plan."

Mr. Ecker said the county's two closed landfills, Carr's Mill in Woodbine and New Cut Road in Ellicott City, are also being considered for recreation. Residents have been asked to advise officials on what they would like to see done, he said.

Contamination by cancer-causing solvents found in household products creates problems with building parks on sites after older landfills are closed, said John J. O'Hara, chief of the county's Bureau of Environmental Services.

The Alpha Ridge Park is on landfill property, but off the actual fill area across the Little Patuxent River.

The problem with contamination has led to federal and state requirements that landfills be capped with plastic to keep rain out.

"Those synthetic materials can be damaged, so you have to be careful . . .," Mr. O'Hara said.

For example, "you can't build structures on a synthetic cap because of the possibility that foundations or footings might damage it.

"You might use them for a hiking or biking trail," he said.

Planned for the fill area south of the Marriottsville park is an airstrip for model airplanes, Mr. O'Hara said. Art Grace, who lives within sight of the Alpha Ridge's northwestern face, said he welcomes the park. But he noted that there was still uncertainty whether residents would have to pay for water hookups.

"If the county has money for that park, but they don't have money to help me hook up to the water, then I have a problem," Mr. Grace said.

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