The Fairfax County Planning Commission has given the green light to preliminary plans to convert the closed Lorton Landfill into a public park.
Dubbed Overlook Ridge Park, the park would house the highest point in Fairfax County, hiking trails, picnic areas, an amphitheater, bathrooms and bird sanctuaries.
But concerns about the safety of the site — particularly issues related to methane gas — dominated the discussion at a meeting on June 15. Braddock District Commissioner Mary Cortina led a line of questioning concerning whether the landfill was determined safe for park use and what parameters were used to come to that conclusion.
County officials and representatives from the Fairfax County Park Authority repeatedly stated that the site was deemed safe for use as a park, according to an analysis by a third-party consultant hired by applicant and property owner Waste Management.
David Kaasa, district manager of the Lorton Landfill, said the applicant would ensure that safety is a top priority.
“If it’s not safe for me to go up there, then we’re not sending anyone up there,” he said.
The applicant is working on a shared agreement to sort out unidentified issues related to the site. A similar plan was discussed in 2007 but stalled due to a number of issues.
County officials encouraged the applicant to determine if there’s a way to avoid potable water at one of the bathrooms at the park. Commissioners also wondered if access to drinking water could be provided at the top of the park — including installation of a water line or a well.
Waste Management’s plan includes two main access roads, a cultural garden and overlook, an amphitheater with benched seating, and 120 parking spaces.
If the planning process moves forward, the park would open to the public as early as 2025. The application has to clear several more steps before official approval, including a site plan. The landfill officially closed in 2021 after operations ceased in 2018.
Despite the possibility of hiccups, Kaasa said the applicant intends to move forward with the proposal.
“Waste Management is committed to this project and its obligations at the landfill both locally and at the state level,” he said.
Mount Vernon District Commissioner Walter Clarke said he is eager for the park to open to the public.
“It’s really amazing up there so once it’s built and if it does come to fruition, we should all please make an effort to enjoy that park,” Clarke said.
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