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Dump to Be Converted to Park : Land use: Honoring an agreement made in the 1950s, city engineers plan to seal the Toyon site in Griffith Park and restore it to a recreation area.


GRIFFITH PARK — Nearly 40 years after the first trash truck dumped its load into the 90-acre Toyon Landfill in Griffith Park, the city of Los Angeles is making plans to keep its original agreement to restore the landfill to usable parkland.

In compliance with state laws, the city Department of Public Works plans to seal the landfill with an impermeable clay top and work with the Department of Recreation and Parks to design a recreation area over it.

The two departments agreed on this end to the landfill during the 1950s when the Toyon Landfill was created.

The landfill has been inactive for five years, but city officials have been struggling since then to comply with the state's evolving laws, said Jeffrey G. Dobrowolski, sanitary engineer for the Department of Public Works.

Designing the closure project will cost $1.1 million over the next three years. Construction, expected to take seven years, will cost $2 million to $10 million more, depending on the requirements by state regulators and the extent of landscaping.

The money will come from the public works department's budget. "At this stage, I don't see any obstacles" to completing the project, Dobrowolski said. "But there will be some difficulties, money being in short supply."

The department already is paying money on a monthly basis to complete the design work, which is six months along.

Both city departments will conduct a series of community meetings at the park's Ranger Auditorium as the project progresses.

City engineers expect to take their plans to state regulatory agencies for approval a year from now, Dobrowolski said. After that, they will submit the plans for council discussion.

Within seven years, if all goes according to plan, the 400-foot-high heap of trash will be covered with earth, landscaped and paved with walkways, said James N. Ward, principal grounds maintenance supervisor for the Department of Recreation and Parks.

"We just want to make sure that the final product of the landfill is acceptable to the park patrons of the city of Los Angeles--something that everybody can enjoy," Ward said.

The landfill is expected to settle for up to 30 years as the refuse decomposes. Some parts may settle up to four feet a year during the early stages and decrease to a foot of settlement a year in the latter stages, Dobrowolski said.

Meanwhile, the Toyon Canyon Power Station, built in 1985, has been generating energy from methane gas produced by the rotting refuse to provide enough power to 8,900 homes, equivalent to 115,000 barrels of oil per year. Under contract with the city, Pacific Lighting Energy Systems sells the power it generates from the methane and gives a portion of the proceeds to the city.

For nearby residents like Floran Frank, who calls the park "my whole life," the landscaping project is welcome news.

"That gorgeous park is no place for a landfill. We're excited and thrilled because we are loyal and truly care about this city," said Frank, who has served as a docent at the zoo for 26 years and is a member of Griffith Park Resource Board.

But another resident, Crosby Doe, said the attempt at a restoration will never be enough.

"Whatever they do there, it's not going to return to the natural look. We think it's important to realize that a mistake was made" in using it as a landfill, said Doe, who lives across the street from the park's southern boundary.

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