You know the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Well, what if we said, “One man’s massive garbage dump is another man’s public park”?
It might surprise you to know that, as our knowledge of waste management improves, many of the world’s giant landfills are being turned into beautiful public parks and nature reserves. Let’s scope out 15 stunning trash-to-treasure transformations.
1. Red Rock Canyon Open Space
Colorado Springs, Colorado
While it might seem like Colorado's Red Rock Canyon Open Space is pristine conservation land, it was once the site of quarries, gravel pits, a gold refining mill, and a 53-acre landfill. In 2003, the city of Colorado Springs bought the land and turned it into a public recreational space. Plans for the park’s development are still in the works, but the ridge and canyon terrain is set to encompass trails, climbing rocks, and picnic areas.
2. Freshkills Park
Staten Island, New York
One of the world’s largest landfills is on its way to becoming the biggest park in all of New York City’s boroughs (it’ll be nearly three times larger than Central Park). Once complete in 2035, the 2,200-acre Freshkills Park will include a multitude of recreational, educational, and athletic areas, including a 46-acre solar array with the capacity to power 2,000 Staten Island homes.
3. Mount Trashmore Park
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Attracting more than one million visitors each year, Mount Trashmore Park has been situated on top of mounds of compacted trash covered in clean soil since 1974. Virginia Beach visitors and residents can hit up two playgrounds, lakes, and a world-famous, 24,000-square foot skate park graced by professional skateboarders like Tony Hawk.
4. César Chávez Park
For unbeatable views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and Angel Island, there’s no better place to take it all in than from César Chávez Park. The hillside park along the San Francisco Bay waterfront boasts expansive lawns and recreation fields built atop one of the largest landfills in the Bay area. Visitors can now test their kite flying skills during the annual Berkeley Kite Festival or hike the trail through an undeveloped haven for wildlife.
5. Washington Park Arboretum
More than 40,000 trees, shrubs, and vines from around the world and a lake filled with koi and turtles exist on what was once the 62-acre Miller Street Dump. The landfill was cleaned up and naturalized by Washington state as part of the Winkenwerder Memorial area of Washington Park Arboretum, and is now home to the Seattle Japanese Garden.
6. Tifft Nature Preserve
Buffalo, New York
Once a landfill located three miles from downtown Buffalo, the 264-acre Tifft Nature Preserve is now a wildlife sanctuary and recreation area. Aside from delighting bird watchers, photographers, and strolling visitors, the park also educates people about nature, conservation, and the surrounding ecosystems.
7. Pulau Semakau Eco-Park
Pulau Semakau, Singapore
While still the only functioning landfill in Singapore, the island of Pulau Semakau off the southern coast opened to the public for selected recreational activities in 2005. Now, this dump for incinerated waste partly functions as a nature preserve where coral reefs and mangroves thrive. To safeguard the natural habitats, island visitors are led by trained guides to witness the marine life.
8. Millennium Park
West Roxbury, Massachusetts
Prior to 1994, the site of Millennium Park was known as the Gardner Street Landfill. Thanks to a political campaign to clean up Boston, sports fields, playgrounds, an outdoor classroom and amphitheater, river access, and six miles of walking and biking trails now cover the 100-acre park with great city views to boot.
9. McAlpine Creek Community Park
Charlotte, North Carolina
Not only does McAlpine Creek Community Park have five soccer fields, a 2-mile bike trail, 1.5-mile nature trail, 3-acre lake with a fishing pier, and a 5K championship cross-country course, but it also contains plenty of space for cooped up dogs to run off-leash at Ray’s Fetching Meadows.
10. Chambers Gully Reserve
While most of these landfills were converted by government funds, Chambers was naturalized into a park almost completely by volunteers. Today, hikers can spot koala bears perched in Cleland Conservation Park’s many eucalyptus trees and old ruins along the trails.
11. Ariel Sharon Park
Tel Aviv, Israel
The giant mound of park atop more than 25 million tons of waste is hard to miss when flying in or out of Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. An international competition held to prevent landfill collapse into the Ayalon River led to its current resurrection into Ariel Sharon Park. Once the 2,000-acre urban park is completed in 2020, it will become part of a vast natural area known as Ayalon Park, featuring athletic fields, bike and walking paths, an amphitheater, as well as ponds and wetlands protected from underlying contaminants by a bioplastic layer.
12. Sai Tso Wan Recreation Ground
Lam Tin, Hong Kong
With solar panels, wind turbines, a rainwater collection system, and a porous recycled rubber mat lining the playground’s surface, Hong Kong’s Sai Tso Wan Recreation Ground is the poster child for green living. The landfill once held approximately 1.6 million tons of waste before undergoing renovation and opening in 2004 as a recreational area and Hong Kong Baseball Association’s official training grounds.
13. Flushing Meadows-Corona Park
Queens, New York
As the second largest park in New York City, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is best known for hosting millions of people at two World’s Fairs as well as tennis' U.S. Open every September. But before it was a park, Flushing Meadows was a landfill built on a wetland that fed into Meadow Lake, the city’s largest freshwater lake.
14. Balloon Fiesta Park
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta Park is utilized year-round for ballooning, golfing, model aircraft flying, bicycle racing, car shows, concerts, and even movie productions. As you might imagine, the 47-acre Launch Field is home to an actual Balloon Fiesta.
15. Glass Beach
Fort Bragg, California
In MacKerricher State Park, California’s Glass Beach is abundant with sea glass created from years of dumping garbage off the Mendocino coastline between 1906 and 1967. Technically, there are three Glass Beach sites—all accessible by foot and a short climb down the cliffs surrounding the beach. Time and the pounding surf have turned one of man’s mistakes into a unique landscape. Unlike the other parks on this list, there are efforts to actually preserve the diminishing “natural” elements by discouraging tourist glass collection and even replenishing the area with more discarded glass.