Neighbors oppose off-road bike park plan in Lebanon

Park opponent worries about exposure to pollution from former landfill.

Michael Dougherty and his family want to put the brakes on plans to build an off-road bike park atop Lebanon’s former landfill.

Dougherty and his family live in homes dotting about 30 acres featuring several ponds in Turtlecreek Twp., across Turtlecreek-Union Road from the proposed park site.

“I’m concerned about the hazardous waste, number 1. Number 2, it changes the complexion of the way I live,” Dougherty said.

A steering committee formed to guide the project through the design phase is to hold its first meeting this month.

The city has been awarded $195,000 in state funding for the project and plans to pay for the rest of the project - estimated to cost $250,000 - from naming rights, sponsorships, donations and impact fees collected on residential developments.

“While some outside commercial interests stand to make money from this, I stand to lose thousands in lost property value, risk the introduction of unsavory behavior to the neighborhood and am concerned about the environmental damage caused by disturbing what the EPA considers hazardous waste,” Dougherty said in an email.

The plan is like others for reuse of former landfill sites around the world. City officials say concerns about exposure to hazardous waste are unfounded.

“The property was acquired by the city in 1969 and was previously used as an active landfill site until around 1989. It has been closed by the city in compliance with all Ohio EPA standards,” Deputy City Manager Scott Brunka said in an email.

The site was designated as a future park site in the city’s 2008 parks master plan. Initially sports fields were the intended reuse, before the bike park, viewed as a “less intensive” use, was proposed. Ohio EPA has approved the plan.

“This plan was developed with input from the community, the park board and city council,” Brunka said. “The bike park concept has been developed over the course of several years, including public hearings to discuss the project, and has generated wide community support for the project.”’

The landfill has been capped and appears to be a partially wooded, open field. A piece of heavy equipment sits near the entrance gate to the roughly 50-acre site.

“You can’t dig in it,” Dougherty said. “Somehow it’s going to affect my water and my well. That’s my biggest fear.”

Recently Dougherty stood near the front of his property, looking across Turtlecreek-Union Road - which dead-ends soon after passing his driveway - toward the former landfill.

He said the tranquility of the family compound was recently disturbed by construction of an Ohio Department of Transportation road-salt storage site that comes alive whenever winter storms threaten road conditions.

Now Dougherty and his family worry the park, although expected to close at dusk, will bring in visitors 24 hours a day. Hundreds of competitors and spectators are expected to gather for cyclocross competitions planned at the site.

“It is not uncommon for public parks to be adjacent to or across from residential properties in the city,” Brunka said, adding that screening and other steps would be taken to limit problems for neighbors.

Dougherty has been invited to join the project’s steering committee.

“If you can’t fight ‘em, join ‘em,” Dougherty said. “My agenda would be different from theirs, but at least it would allow me to be heard.”

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