Waste Management

Riverbend project offers broad public possibilities

News Register - Editorial Board
July 28, 2012

Riverbend Landfill has launched a major project that seems remarkably free of the controversy that has plagued the company in its efforts to expand the footprint of the landfill. In our minds, it's a promising venture that warrants broad discussion in McMinnville and other local communities.

The company wants to open approximately 450 acres for community use on the land it owns adjacent to the existing landfill. It's an intriguing proposal in nascent stages that feasibly could cover a land area somewhere between the total incorporated areas of Amity and Dayton.

Riverbend's plan, in great part, will be crafted with advice from a handpicked stewardship committee consisting of landfill neighbors, and geographically diverse representatives from the fields of agriculture, business, education, recreation, the wine industry, cultural organizations and governmental agencies.

Additionally, the company will hold a series of public meetings throughout the year to draw further citizen input. Once the framework for discussion has been developed and a concept approved, more concrete development could begin as early as 2013 and continue through 2014, with stewardship committee participation. At that time, Riverbend could continue enhancements to the project over the next 10 to 20 years, depending on funding.

So just what types of projects could be undertaken on 450 acres of land? Some initial feedback from stakeholders included a broad array of possibilities.

It could be preserved for farm use or exist as an agricultural land lab. Conservation easements could be developed, and wildlife habitats might be created. Wetland restoration, of course, goes hand-in-hand with conservation usage. The land could serve as an environmental education gold mine, with wetland tours and an interpretive center of sorts.

There are numerous recreational possibilities including biking and walking paths, camping, picnicking, sports fields, even a nine-hole golf course, as was suggested by one committee participant.

Then again, 450 acres is a lot of land. It seems to us that two or more compatible natural uses easily could be compatible on the property.

Where would funding come from? Numerous grant possibilities exist through Connect Oregon, U.S. and Oregon Fish and Wildlife, other state and federal agencies, Spirit Mountain, Meyer Memorial Trust and other foundations.

Skeptics may suggest that Riverbend is playing a public relations game with such ambitious development plans at a time of controversy over proposed landfill expansion. We see no evidence of that, and in fact, the potential for a public relations backlash hardly makes it a viable strategy. Our sense is that the company is sincere in its commitment to create this land asset for the public use.

The expansion battle is - at least for now - is on hold as the company moves toward the possible construction of a berm to increase capacity without increasing the footprint or height of the existing landfill. It remains to be seen how all of that plays out.

For now, we're appreciative of the resources Riverbend has committed toward this community stewardship project, whatever it turns out to be. We'll be following the process closely, bringing you updates when we can.

It's worth watching.

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