YMCA Looking To Utilize Landfill For Outdoor Uses

SNOW HILL — The Lower Shore Family YMCA would like to use the Pocomoke landfill for nature paths, rope courses and bike trails. The Worcester County Commission is supportive of the concept, but nervous about any extended activity on top of the actual landfill itself, which could be dangerous given the persistent venting of methane gas.
“It’s a win-win situation for everybody because we’ll take that landfill and make a positive thing out of it, not that it isn’t now,” said YMCA representative Hob Mason.
The YMCA is looking for “active recreational facilities” like bike trails and walking paths, noted John Tustin, director of public works. He was in favor of the idea, but with limits.
“We suggested that if they were to approach the County Commissioners for some type of lease arrangement for the use of the landfill property that they limit the request to the use of the forested areas of the property only,” he wrote in a memo to the commission.
There is a safety issue involving any activity on the landfill, which constantly vents methane gas that is created by the decomposing mass.
“I think that they’re very worthy programs,” Commission Judy Boggs said of the YMCA’s request, “but there are issues involved with the landfill that may put some people in danger.”
Darl Kolar of EA Engineering further elaborated on the fear that too much activity could be risky on top of the landfill.
“It’s the gas, mainly, as the county has indicated,” he said. “There are vents there for a reason.”
An explosion or collapse is unlikely, but not impossible. The landfill mound does already see some traffic from county employees. Additionally, it is used by local students for cross country practice to simulate hilly terrain. But that activity is minor, said Tustin.
“They practice on the landfill once a week and that was approved years ago,” he said. “But that’s a short-term hour, hour and a half operation.”
It is also well controlled, added County Attorney Sonny Bloxom.
The YMCA is aware of the concerns. Representative Josh Nordstrum said he wants to work for a solution.
“We’re not sure about the science of the mound and what the potential pitfalls are and certainly the dangers there,” he said. “But if there is no danger for people to ride over the mound we would think that everybody in this room would be in favor of allowing the YMCA to makes some trails there.”
The YMCA will meet further with Tustin and Pocomoke Commissioner Merrill Lockfaw to discuss risks and are expected to return to the commissioners with a compromise.