Grant to transform massive landfill, where trash was piled 500 feet high, into a park

Wildlife Conservation Board Awards Nearly $120 Million in Grants to 43 Habitat Conservation and Restoration Projects.
A grant from the state's Wildlife Conservation Board will help turn a landfill into Puente Hills Regional Park. (California Department of Fish and Wildlife)

Efforts to turn a former landfill site into Los Angeles County’s first regional park in decades received a boost in the form of a $12.5-million state grant.

The money approved by the Wildlife Conservation Board late last month will be distributed to the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department to start construction on the 142-acre Puente Hills Regional Park next year.

The park is nestled in the hills near Rose Hills and surrounded by unincorporated Hacienda Heights and Whittier, the City of Industry and South El Monte with street access at Workman Mill Road and North Drive.

Funding is earmarked for the restoration of 40 acres of native grassland, coastal sage scrub and chaparral, according to Jennifer Norris, executive director of the Wildlife Conservation Board, a small agency within the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“Several members of our board come from the Los Angeles area and this brings them and all of us a sense of personal satisfaction,” Norris said. “We’ve been excited to see this project develop.”

The funding was the largest awarded by the board out of a series of May grants. The state board ultimately awarded money to 43 habitat conservation and restoration projects throughout 23 counties.

The June 22 announcement of the state budget allowed the board to release the funds.

Read more: It was once the nation’s largest trash heap. Now it'll be an inspirational L.A. County park

“The Puente Hills Regional Park is the culmination of a decades-long vision to transform the former landfill and its 150 million tons of trash into a public space, a place for nature and wildlife, a place for healing, restoration, and regeneration,” L.A. County Parks and Recreation Director Norma E. Garcia-Gonzalez said in a statement.

The park’s site was once home of the Puente Hills Landfill, which operated from 1957 until its closing on Oct. 31, 2013. Trash is estimated to have covered 602 acres, with piles rising 500 feet high.

The landfill once processed one-third of all of the county’s garbage.

That refuse is now covered under protective clay caps laid across the landfill to prevent rainwater from mixing with the debris. There is also a system of pipes to move gasses, primarily methane, away from the refuse and into storage to eventually be sold to the Southern California Gas Co.

As for construction itself, parks department officials confirm they’re still on track to break ground in summer 2025.

Park Phase I construction will includes the entrance, an adjacent small park and picnic areas, an Environmental Justice Center, parking areas and an operations yards, according to parks and recreation officials. That work should be completed by fall 2026, officials said.

Read more: A home, an office and a park demonstrate that design can be environmentally conscious — and look good

Additional work around the site, including the Park Loop Road, trails, bike skills, landscaping, and other park amenities, will begin as funding and permits are secured.

Park officials confirmed they raised $135 million to date.

Norris said wildlife conservation officials took several trips to Puente Hills and walked away impressed by the project.

“It really checked several boxes for us in terms of our priorities,” Norris said. “This project restores habitats and is part of a larger vision to provide recreation and wildlife habitats while boasting biodiversity. It’s a winner.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.