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China Grove hopes to transform old landfill site

By Josh Bergeron
josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

CHINA GROVE — One man’s trash is another man’s city park?

The Town of China Grove this week began looking for an engineer to evaluate its closed landfill. Town leaders have their eyes set on turning the site into some sort of park. Depending on results of the assessment, the town may need to clean up its landfill before it’s recycled into a park. Exact contents of a park haven’t been determined. However, a master plan for the Carolina Thread Trail — a regional network of greenways and blueways — shows a section going through the landfill site.

“It’s a pretty unique piece of land,” said China Grove Mayor Lee Withers. “It could allow us to expand our parks and rec offerings. Probably the best use of the land would be the do something for our sports programs.”

Withers said the town’s fields on Harris Street have reached maximum capacity with the number of people who use it.

“We’re literally running out of days in the week to schedule practices while still having time to maintain them,” he said.

The old landfill site measures close to 40 acres, according to town officials. It sits in a wooded area containing Grants Creek. Edges of the property touch Patterson, Stevens, Harry and Kirk streets. The radio station WRNA sits next to the portion of the property touching Patterson Street.

Town Manager Ken Deal said an engineer hired to oversee an assessment of the landfill could begin work in January, at the earliest. Dec. 17 is the due date for proposals from interested engineers. The proposals will include cost estimates and timelines for work.

“Several years ago, we decided the land either needed to sell it all or we needed to utilize it in some method,” Deal said. “So, now we’re exploring the possibilities of use.”

It’s unclear exactly what the closed landfill holds. Withers, 40, says he’s only aware of miscellaneous yard debris — tree limbs and leaves, for example — being brought to the landfill.

“There’s no telling what people put in the landfill back when there weren’t a lot of regulations,” he said. “We want to make sure we go about it the right way.”

Deal said state funds would pay for the entirety of cleanup of the landfill. Any development of the park would likely involve grants and matching funds from China Grove, Deal said.

The China Grove Town Board hasn’t yet actively discussed the matter, but Deal said the landfill cleanup and potential development could become a significant topic in 2017. Before then, he said local residents are needed to serve on the town’s parks board, which hasn’t met in several months and has a number of vacancies.

If the town decides to clean up the landfill and turn it into a park facility, Deal said there would be “plenty of assignments” that the parks board would need to perform. A master plan for the facility is one example, Deal said. That master plan would require input from local residents about what might be best at the proposed park site. Deal and Withers both mentioned new baseball or softball fields as examples.

Once complete, Withers said the park could help revitalize the south end of China Grove and, perhaps, increase property values in the area.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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