Military Base Turns Dumpsites Into Recreation Areas

Keesler Air Force Base is finding new use for a couple of landfills. The base is transforming the landfills into part of its golf course. It's taken a lot of money and a lot of time to turn 22 acres of land from trash sites into a recreational area. Engineers say they've been studying how to make Keesler's landfills safer since 1987. Now finally, they say their hard work is paying off.

What was a mound of debris and trash will now sit the tee box for hole 14. Restoration manager Lisa Noble says in the 50s and 60s much of Keesler's trash, some of it hazardous, ended up at landfills, but now work is underway to make a conversion.

"We're putting a protective cover so that rain water will not penetrate through into the landfill materials and leach out into the Back Bay," said Noble. "There's also a sheet pile wall surrounding the landfills and we've done a lot of work on ecological and human health risks."

The obvious question is if what is buried here is potentially harmful, why not just dig it up?

"We're gonna spend on landfill 3 approximately a little over $10 million," said Noble. "To dig up this site would have been well over $40 million plus we would have just had to bring the materials to some other place."

Noble says unstable soil and chemical gasses make landfills unsafe for building homes but they can be made okay for golf courses.

"You have limited people there just for short duration over a site so a golf course recreational area is a very good reuse and revitalization of an a really unsightly, unusable piece of land," she said.

Engineers say 15 million dollars will go into converting both of the landfills into part of the golf course. When the restoration is completed this fall two holes will be extended to par 5.