Back to the Roots

Leah Walters
June 18, 2018

What do you get when you take the world’s largest landfill, a run-down coal plant, or an abandoned industrial wasteland, and mix it with a little bit of passion and a vision? You get something pretty incredible, thanks to the idea of land recycling. Land recycling involves taking areas that have been abused, neglected, abandoned, or damaged and revamping them. Many take this opportunity to turn these areas into places that are enjoyable for all, such as parks. There are countless benefits to land recycling. 

Social benefits 

  Parks and outdoor areas give people a place get out in their community, which helps to boost community pride and gets people out and interacting with those around them. 

Economic benefits

  Land recycling projects are not only beneficial to the community once they are done but they also positively impact communities during their construction. These projects help to create jobs as well as boost tax revenue.

Environmental benefits 

  Land recycling helps to reduce urban sprawl by increasing urban density. By occupying this land with a park or environmentally friendly area, it ensures the conservation and protection of not only that space, but also the areas around it. Land recycling takes abandoned, underused and damaged areas and turn them into something that many people can enjoy and the parks below are a couple of beautiful examples of that… 

Richard Haag’s Gas Works Park in Seattle, Washington

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The Gas Works Park in Seattle, WA was built on the grounds of a former coal plant. The park features an old boiler house that has since been converted to a picnic shelter with tables and grills for the park-goers to enjoy. They also converted an old compressor building into a play area for children, which is home to brightly painted machinery. This project was a beautiful example of how bioremediation and rejuvenation can completely transform an area. Public perception of this area was completely transformed and now multitudes of people enjoy the park daily. 

James Corner Operations Fresh Kills Park in Staten Island, NYC
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Fresh Kills Landfill will become an excellent example of land recycling.  Set to open in 2037, this project will be roughly 3 times the size of New York City’s Central Park. It will take what once was a landfill and turn it into a beautiful haven of greenery that is home to many natural species and wildlife. This site will also hold many sporting events, hiking and biking trails, waterways, picnic and recreational areas, and art showcases, just to name a few. The plan for this park is to take its landfill history and use a gas collection infrastructure to harvest methane and use it to heat thousands of homes in the surrounding areas. At one point, this landfill was the largest the world had ever seen. It was shut down in 2001 and the rejuvenation project began in 2008. This park is set to turn what once was an eyesore of Staten Island into an expansive area of greenery and recreation for all residents. 

Land recycling not only rejuvenates the park itself, but also the surrounding areas. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, cleaning up these areas can substantially increase property values by two or three percent. A clean, healthy, outdoor environment can work wonders for a neighborhood. It gets people out and interacting with each other, it creates jobs and increases tax revenue, ensures the protection of the areas for years to come, and so much more. Land recycling exemplifies the importance of making something out of nothing. These two beautiful parks were created out of an industrial coal plant and what once was the world’s largest landfill. There is no limit to the potential of creativity in nature if we choose to embrace it.