Up above McQueen Road, out of public view, Chandler's former garbage dump quietly has been undergoing a major transformation into an enormous new multipurpose park with stunning panoramic views.
The 66-acre Paseo Vista Recreation Area, a triangular parcel northwest of McQueen and Ocotillo roads, is slated for opening by the end of the year, said Mickey Ohland, city park development and operations manager. The $10.6 million project began in August 2008.
"There are people that pass this every day going to work and never notice it because you can't see anything," Ohland said. "Then you get up here."
City officials are shooting for completion in December. Work on the park's large archery range and 18-hole disc golf course are well along. When it's finished, the park is expected to be the preeminent destination for archery and disc golf in the south East Valley, and could bring some tourism, Ohland said.
"I definitely think there's potential for that," he said.
Other amenities at the park include a 5.5-acre grassy area, walking trails, a large playground with modern equipment such as a large spherical jungle gym made of cables, a dog park, picnic ramadas and a scenic overlook, 1,280 feet in elevation, at the park's high point.
Jim Phipps, city spokesman, said the Municipal Landfill on which Paseo Vista sits was closed in October 2005 because it was full. The dump had been in operation since 1979. Trash collected from Chandler neighborhoods is now brought by garbage trucks to transfer stations in Mesa and Phoenix, where it is transferred into larger trucks and hauled to Butterfield Landfill near Mobile, he said.
In May 2004, Chandler voters approved the sale of bonds to fund the design and construction of an open space recreational area on top of the landfill, which became Paseo Vista, Phipps said.
A large pipe at the landfill's base along McQueen Road will continue to vent a torrent of hot air produced by an interior flame that burns off methane gas produced by the landfill's decomposing trash, he said.
"The flame burns up the methane and hot air comes out the top of the pipe," Phipps said.
John Stih, CEO of the Southeast Valley Regional Association of Realtors, said the transformation from a garbage dump to manicured park likely will boost property values for surrounding neighbors.
"That's got to be nothing but a positive situation," Stih said.
Ohland said trash in the landfill was capped with two feet of dirt. The closure complies with federal guidelines, and the covered landfill doesn't present a health risk to visitors, he said.
"When the landfill was out here, it smelled bad sometimes. We used to get calls about it," he said.
The soil cap dealt with the smell, but the mound of dirt remained an eyesore, he said. The idea of building a park on top presented special challenges. For instance, the city was restricted in how much of the site could be covered by grass and concrete. Trees and structures are not allowed to penetrate into the two-foot soil cap, Ohland said.
City crews brought in 350,000 cubic yards of soil from nearby Nozomi Park, just across McQueen Road north of Appleby Road, he said. The 60-acre Nozomi Park is being built in conjunction with the Flood Control District of Maricopa County, and is expected to do double duty as an area storm water detention basin, Ohland said.
The soil added at Paseo Vista covers the original cap at an average depth of about four feet, he said, although in some places it's as deep as 15 feet. Because the landfill is expected to shift and settle over time, foundations for fixtures and structures are set into concrete blocks on the surface.
"Everything's on a floatable slab," Ohland said.
The park eventually will have parking for 333 vehicles, but the parking lots are still under construction. The city is using recycled materials like crushed asphalt and concrete from other projects for much of the work.
The archery range overlooks the McDowell Mountains. Ohland said there has been significant public interest in the range. The local Paseo Vista Archery Club is expected to help maintain the range and offer lessons, he said.
"Since we've started building, I've heard from a lot of people that can't wait," he said. "From what I've been told, this will be one of the nicer archery ranges around."
The disc golf course overlooks South Mountain and the Sierra Estrella range, while the grassy turf area looks southeast to the San Tan Mountains.
"You can't get any better views," Ohland said.
The park's trails are expected to connect to the nearby Paseo Trail along the Consolidated Canal, he said. Paseo Vista is expected to have educational signs about the landfill, as well.