An evaluation of potential benefits from the redevelopment of landfills into parks in Houston, Texas

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Date

2006-05

Authors

Taylor, Michael Lawrence

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Abstract

This report examines the potential benefits from the redevelopment of landfills into parks in Houston, Texas. Many Park and Recreation (P&R) Departments are unable to acquire and develop parkland at a rate on par with new residential construction. Parks provide economic, environmental, public health and aesthetic benefits. Despite these benefits, P&R Departments are often the target of budget cuts when city governments grapple with funding shortfalls. P&R Departments must pursue low value lands to meet parkland needs. Closed Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) landfills are a source of low value land in, and surrounding urban areas. New regulatory framework in the form of the U.S. EPA’s Municipal Solid Waste Landfill Criteria ensures closed landfills may be safely and cost effectively redeveloped for recreational use with limited liability concerns for the P&R Department. This regulatory framework is discussed and Best Management Practices (BMPs) are outlined. These BMPs focus on accommodating the dynamic nature of landfills to minimize park development and Operation and Maintenance (O&M) costs. The substantial parkland deficit in the City of Houston is quantified. The findings of the needs assessment in the City’s Parks Master Plan are presented. A multi-tiered Geographic Information Systems (GIS) based analysis is utilized to evaluate the potential benefits from the redevelopment of existing landfills in the City into parks. The GIS analysis identified 8 landfills that, if redeveloped, will increase the distributional equity of City parkland holdings. Of these 8, the 4 landfills with the lowest expected total development costs and the highest expected savings over traditional greenfield development were identified. It is recommended the City adopt a thorough site characterization and planning process and pursue landfill redevelopment as a cost effective and beneficial way to increase parkland holdings.

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