David A. Lorenz, executive director at South Suburban Park and Recreation District in the South Denver, Colo., metro area has eyed the closed Arapahoe County- owned landfill in Douglas County as a potential recreation site for years. Developers in Douglas County, the nation's fastest growing county in the 1990s, have snatched up most available land, and what remains is expensive for a park district to acquire. In 1985, two years before the landfill closure, H. William Woodcock, South Suburban manager of planning and construction, created a master plan to convert the 80-acre site into athletic fields for what would eventually become the David A. Lorenz Regional Park.

“When we talked with the Arapahoe County Commissioners about converting the land to a park, we encountered a stumbling block with the liability of potential water pollution from watering a landfill and the increase in methane production,” said Lorenz. Instead of athletic fields, South Suburban developed a BMX bike course as a no-water use of the area in 1995.

In 1998 South Suburban's board asked a 55-member citizen committee to research district needs and formulate a 20-year plan for trails, open-space parks, programs, facilities, demographics, and future opportunities and also to look at funding. One pressing need the Gold Medal 2020 plan identified was the shortage of athletic fields for practice and play spurred by the population increase and by the upsurge in girls' participation in sports.

So when Lorenz discovered the next generation of synthetic turf at a trade show—a firm, player-friendly variety resembling natural grass—he questioned if this “no water” turf could be the solution for badly needed athletic fields on the land-fill. The park district re-opened negotiations with Arapahoe County and took a $20 million general obligation bond issue to the voters in 2000, which included $3 million for the first three-field phase of the project.

In 2001 South Suburban and Arapahoe County finalized a renewable lease agreement at $1 a year for 15 years with permission to develop the land. This included adhering to strict guidelines to ensure public safety and to protect the county and its landfill manager, Waste Management of Colorado Inc. (WMC), from liability. With funds from the voter-approved bonds the district also acquired 60 adjacent acres to the east for the park master plan.

The next step was sending out requests for proposal (RFPs) and selecting the contractor. After interviewing several pre-qualified contractors who responded to the RFPs, in November 2001 the district entered into a design/build contract with American Civil Constructors Inc. (ACC) of Littleton, Colo., a contractor experienced with synthetic turf and sports complexes. “ACC adhered to Colorado law by hard-bidding all components that were $25,000 or over,” said Woodcock.

ACC brought Plan West of Green-wood Village onboard to assist in refining the master plan, coordinate the various agencies, and obtain the zoning permit from Douglas County. Within nine months Plan West worked with 26 agencies and the public in meeting requirements of the different stakeholders, and in October 2002 obtained a special-use permit based on the 140-acre master plan. In the first phase, South Suburban developed 25 acres including two tournament-size multi-purpose fields, a baseball/Softball field, a practice area, an access road, and a parking lot.

“This is a tremendous project because it's a wonderful re-use of a closed landfill and was such a convoluted process with all the players,” said David Brehm, site planner at Plan West. “Everybody wanted this park to happen; it was a matter of working through all the concerns and limitations.”


During construction ACC moved one of the monitoring wellheads from left field to a fenced enclosure outside the ball field. Other wellheads are in their original locations and fenced to protect the public and prevent vandalism.

After the landfill closed, WMC in-stalled methane collection piping designed by Colder Associates Inc., Lakewood, Colo., 10 feet above the refuse at depths up to 85 feet. The perforated plastic pipes vacuum methane from the decomposing waste through a lateral series of piping ending in the 8-inch pipe that feeds an automated flare system. Between 1987 and early 2000 the land-fill generated enough methane to co-generate electricity as Colorado's first landfill gas-to-electricity project, according to Leonard Butler, engineering manager for WMC.