St. Johns landfill to become public park

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by Keely Chalmers, KGW Staff

NWCN.com

Posted on June 27, 2013 at 9:14 AM

Updated Thursday, Jun 27 at 11:22 AM

PORTLAND -- Behind an industrial area of North Portland lies a hidden gem.

It’s one of Metro's newest natural areas, home to a variety of wildlife including bald eagles, deer, blue herons, and threatened species like the streaked horned lark.

It’s hard to imagine that just a few years ago the area was a 240-acre trash dump full of millions of tons of rotting garbage.

It was the old St. John's Landfill, where for decades Portlanders dumped just about anything.

“I would describe it as smelly, yucky, gross," said Mary Anne Cassin, parks planning and development manager for Metro. "It was everybody's refuse."

Over the last decade Metro has covered the piles of trash to keep them from leaching into the nearby Columbia slough and buried the garbage under mounds of dirt. And the agency said that's just the beginning.

Metro now plans to build a 4-mile bike and pedestrian trail at the site as part of Portland's 40-mile loop, along with a picnic and overlook area. And for the first time Metro will open the land to the public.

“To go hiking go biking to take their dogs, to go and experience wildlife as close to the city as they can is fantastic,” said Scott Thorson who lives in St. Johns.

Trash has been turned into a treasure for future generations to enjoy.

“It makes you realize, 'Yeah we’ve done a lot of bad things but we're also capable of some really great things,'” said Cassin.

Metro needs two federal grants to complete the trail projects. If it gets them, the trails could start going in within about two years.

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