943 views • posted 06/01/2022 • updated 09/15/2023
From Trash to Treasure. What used to be a landfill in Springfield, Missouri is finding new use.
by Sue Crowe, Database Coordinator
Ozark Greenways fourth phase of the Fulbright Spring Greenway consisted of constructing approximately 1.44 miles of a new, hard surface trail for bicycling, running, and walking activities. The corridor was enhanced with public art, interpretive kiosks, and wayfinding. This project filled a trail gap within the Fulbright Spring Greenway trail corridor resulting in a total of 6.98 continuous miles of trail connecting a total of four parks, one elementary school, several subdivisions, a one-mile natural surface loop trail used by hikers, runners, and mountain bikers, and an additional rural road bicycle route which is signed with share-the-road signs to connect to the Frisco Highline Trail.
But it Wasn’t Always So Pretty Here
In the 1970s, American cities began to understand the need for critical storage and handling processes to prevent their waste from damaging human and environmental health. Springfield discovered its own need for these processes after it was determined that the Fulbright landfill was contaminated. The City of Springfield operated the former landfill from 1962 through 1969. During this time, domestic and industrial wastes were accepted at the landfill. Trash and wastes were put into trenches next to the river and after the trenches were filled, they were covered with soil. Other areas were designated for disposal of spent solvents, plating waste, and other liquid chemical wastes.
Decades after the landfill closed, the streambank of the river eroded, exposing garbage and debris. The 98-acre Fulbright Landfill was designated a Superfund site and added to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Priority Listing in 1983 as a hazardous waste site. In 1990, the City entered into a consent decree with EPA to perform cleanup activities to address volatile compounds, heavy metals, and cyanide contamination found at the Fulbright site.
Decontaminating the site included excavating and removing trash and contaminated soil from the streambank, backfilling with clean material as well as laying down mesh mats and concrete blankets. Trees were planted along the river to help reduce future erosion and stabilize the streambank. The City continues to monitor the site annually to ensure it meets accepted environmental standards. We also have trail signs posted on each end of the trail segment that crosses the former landfill/superfund site requesting that trail users stay on the trail.
The Former Fulbright Landfill/Superfund Site Today
We look and see a mix of native prairie grasses and wildflowers, as well as a variety of wetland and woodland trees and shrubs such as oak, American Sycamore, sassafras, and willows. This former landfill site now provides habitat for a range of wildlife including turtles, deer, foxes, woodchucks, and many bird species such as songbirds, wild turkeys, hawks, and bald eagles. The property is owned by the City of Springfield and is a great example of many partners working together to co-create a community asset. The beautiful South Dry Sac River meanders alongside Fulbright Spring Greenway and feeds into the Little Sac River. Also nearby is Fulbright Spring which is located on property owned by City Utilities. Fulbright Spring is the city’s original water source, and Springfield began using the spring in 1883. This site is still in use and became a National Historic Landmark in 1993.
In September 2020, Ozark Greenways completed the $484,189 project with $50,000 from the Springfield-Greene County Park Board, a $150,000 Federal Recreational Trails Program grant, and the balance from donations and Ozark Greenways fundraisers. Additional partners included the City of Springfield Environmental Services, EPA Region 7, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and Greene County.
Designated National Recreation Trail
On June 3, 2022 Secretary Haaland of the National Park Service designated the Fulbright Spring Greenway as one of the nine new National Recreation Trails (NRT). NRT's are jointly coordinated and administered by the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service, in conjunction with a number of federal and nonprofit partners. The designation of an NRT can be done by either the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture on an existing local or regional trail with the consent of the federal, state, Tribal, local, nonprofit, or private entity that has jurisdiction over the trail. The trail's managing agency or organization must apply for the distinction.
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