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Massive Puente Hills landfill mountain to become a park

The rolling green plains of the Puente Hills landfill.
The rolling green plains of the Puente Hills landfill.

Welcome to the biggest garbage dump in the nation. The closed Puente Hills landfill sits just 15 miles east of downtown Los Angeles and covers 700 acres — about one square mile — with a trash hill 500 feet high.

What do you do with such a large pile of refuse? Los Angeles County has an answer: Build a park.

That’s the plan the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will consider Tuesday night. They’re expected to approve $5 million to build a visitor center at the base of the landfill, and to approve the master plan that will eventually result in a park on the 117 acres at the peak of Puente Hills.

According to Paul Prestia, a division engineer at the Los Angeles County Sanitation District, there is one strong draw about having such a big mountain of garbage.

“You see the San Gabriel mountains, you got a good view of the San Gabriel River, you can see downtown LA, looking west,” Prestia tells KPCC. “It’s a great panoramic view of the San Gabriel Valley.”

That’s one reason the county wants to build the park at Puente Hills’ summit.

Prestia said the visitor center will be built first. The park itself won’t be built for several decades, he said.

“As a landfill ages, it settles quite a bit,” Prestia said. In some places, that settling can be up to 100 feet, he said. “So you can’t necessarily start building today when you have to deal with that kind of settlement.”

A trail to the top already exists and is open to the public. Prestia adds that there is no smell: “The landfill is designed with a protective cover that doesn’t allow methane gas to escape.”