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Preliminary plans call for a park at the site of the Lorton landfill (via Fairfax County)

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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At the Mosaic District FRESHFARM Farmers’ Market (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

A local effort to divert food from landfills, thanks to composting, is expanding.

Fairfax County is adding another farmers market, this one in Kingstowne, to its list of locations where people can drop off unused food for reuse.

People can drop off the food scraps during the farmers market hours, which for Kingstowne takes place 3 to 7 p.m. Fridays starting May 6.

Other farmers markets and sites that also allow for composting drop-offs include:

  • Burke — 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays beginning this weekend (April 16)
  • Herndon — from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursdays as of April 28,
  • Mount Vernon — from 8 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays starting next week (April 20)
  • Mosaic District — from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays year round
  • The I-66 Transfer Station and I-95 Landfill Complex — between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. every day of the week.

Fairfax County said in a news release yesterday (Wednesday) that the pilot program diverted 22 tons of food scraps last year. According to the county, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions eliminated by the effort was equivalent to taking 50 cars off the road.

In another area of growth for farmers markets, more vendors are also slated to participate this year as the seasonal staples return across the region.

Photo via Philip Cohen/Wikimedia

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Fairfax County hopes to turn a site for waste into a recreational treasure, reviving plans to redevelop a landfill by I-95 that closed in 2018.

The Lorton Landfill could be transformed into a public park under a new proposal from property owner Waste Management. Dubbed Overlook Ridge Park, the amenities at 10001 Furnace Road could be completed in 2025, according to Fairfax County.

“When opened, this new passive park will be the highest point in Fairfax County, with beautiful vistas of Northern Virginia and the Potomac River, plenty of open space and a performance venue,” Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said in a statement.

Submitted on Feb. 11, the plan calls for bird sanctuaries, hiking and equestrian trails, picnic areas, exercise and kite-flying areas, bathroom facilities, and an amphitheater with an earthen stage.

The application is going through the county’s initial approval process for new public facilities, known as a 2232 review.

According to county staff, the site would remain privately owned, but the Fairfax County Park Authority would operate the park amenities once they are built.

“WM looks forward to continuing our partnership with Fairfax County to provide a recreational area for residents of all ages to enjoy,” Waste Management public affairs director Lisa Kardell said, declining to answer how insurance liability would work.

Waste Management took over the Lorton Landfill when it acquired former property owner EnviroSolutions in 2018.

Efforts to redevelop the landfill have repeatedly stalled.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors denied a proposal in 2014 to continue landfill operations through Dec. 31, 2040, with the addition of solar panels, a methane-capturing system to create electricity, a baseball hitting area, and a golf range.

In that application, county staff said all structures atop the landfill should be open-air facilities to prevent the build-up of landfill gases. The site continues to undergo regular inspections for runoff that discharges to the area’s sanitary sewer system.

In an August 2020 letter to the county, Furnace Associates requested that BMX trails not be considered for the landfill, saying that they could create safety hazards and would need to be removed along with other paths and trail bridges.

Brian Lemon, who recently rode near the landfill on his mountain bike, said even if more trails were added to the landfill, he’d want others to go down them first.

“I would bike it if it was developed,” the Woodbridge resident said.

The Lorton Landfill collected construction and demolition debris. County staff noted that the type of waste generally raises less of a concern about odors, compared to sites like the county’s I-95 Landfill Complex that accept food and household waste.

Nearby, the company Alpine X wants to build an indoor ski resort called Fairfax Peak on top of another I-95 landfill area between Route 123 and Mordor Drive.

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