Ellicott City residents near the former New Cut Road landfill are fighting road changes they say would bring traffic through their quiet neighborhood to a park planned at the landfill site.
"It would be a constant flow of traffic," said Jack Speicher, a Halehaven Drive resident opposed to plans to connect Doncaster and Halehaven drives, offering a shortcut to the site from Montgomery Road (Route 103). The two drives now are separated by a 300-foot-wide meadow crisscrossed by high-tension wires.
County officials say they haven't yet made a decision.
"At this point, we don't have an opinion one way or another," said James M. Irvin, Howard County's public works director.
Mr. Irvin said he plans to meet with residents within six months to discuss alternative roads into the site, including one that would connect New Cut Road to Bonnie Branch Road and College Avenue.
The residents' complaints come at a time when the county is designing a park at the landfill. The landfill became a source of controversy after a county-sponsored study revealed last year that it contaminated nearby residential water wells with volatile organic compounds.
A public information meeting will be held tomorrow at Worthington Elementary School to discuss recreational uses for the former landfill.
Worthington-area residents are more worried about the planned road than about the landfill site itself. They want the county to create a park entrance off New Cut Road, a north-south artery to the west of the landfill.
County officials say alternative proposals -- such as the one to connect New Cut Road to Bonnie Branch Road and College Avenue -- are not practical.
"Theoretically, you could hook up with College Avenue," Mr. Irvin said, "but it's not a highly desirable choice."
The meeting tomorrow is expected to focus on the park itself. County public works officials need to know how the 85-acre site -- next to Worthington Elementary -- will be used before they can install a permanent plastic cap to prevent rainwater from leaching more contaminants into ground water.
"The purpose of the meeting is to get input from community residents," said John J. O'Hara, chief of the county's Bureau of Waste Management. "We don't know at this point in time what facilities can be accommodated."
County officials had planned to create a park at the site when the landfill closed in 1981, but they encountered budget problems. Next month, they plan to hire a consultant to design the New Cut Road park and one at the former Carr's Mill landfill in Woodbine. Construction for both is due to begin in 1997.
The Alpha Ridge Community Park on the northern edge of the Alpha Ridge Landfill in Marriottsville is already open with picnic pavilions, baseball diamonds and tennis and basketball courts.
The New Cut site -- to be called Worthington Park -- may feature archery ranges, nature trails, athletic fields and other low-intensity recreational uses. County officials worry that heavy structures that require foundations could damage the underground plastic cap.
"You can't put heavy structures on top of the cap," said Mr. O'Hara. "It's unstable. Essentially, it's a huge mountain of waste."
But Diana Fleck, who lives near the landfill, holds out hope for an educational pavilion that would showcase the landfill's history and its inner workings.
"It would be a great educational experience," said Ms. Fleck, who discussed plans for the site last month with county public works officials. "And what better place to provide it than next to an elementary school?"
Before the site can be developed, it will undergo an $8.6 million cleanup program that includes pumping out water, aerating the site to let the solvents evaporate and burning off methane gas released from the landfill's waste.
According to a 1994 county-financed study, the landfill contains solvents such as trichloroethene and vinyl chloride, some of which are believed to cause cancer in humans.
But Mr. O'Hara said park users would be safe from such contaminants, which primarily affect underground aquifers that feed residential wells. The county has provided public water to residents and installed an underground device called a grout curtain to prevent methane and other contaminants from traveling toward Worthington Elementary.
"We wouldn't have some case of surface exposure to people using the park," Mr. O'Hara said.