By Mac Cerullo Staff Writer
Newburyport Daily News
---- — AMESBURY — Once a big mound of trash, the Titcomb Pit landfill is in the midst of a transformation that city officials hope will culminate in the creation of a new soccer field.
New grass has begun to cover the sealed landfill on South Hunt Road, which was purchased by the city in conjunction with landfill operator Waste Management late last year in an effort to convert the site into usable space.
The grass is a visible example of how far the site has come from what it used to be, but Mayor Thatcher Kezer said there is still more work to be done before any soccer can be played at the site.
The landfill was purchased in December from the Jack Ryan Trust using Waste Management funds, with the idea being that the city would own the land and the waste company would operate it. No taxpayer money was used in the purchase.
The purchase stemmed from an earlier community host agreement signed in 2008 where the waste company agreed to pay $200,000 to the city to maintain the land, test the fill used to cap the landfill and eventually buy the property.
Once the property was under city control, city officials and Waste Management worked out an agreement that would prevent the site from becoming a “Viking burial mound,” or a big grass dome.
“We negotiated with Waste Management to reshape it so it was flat enough that we could put some soccer fields on there,” Kezer said.
The landfill was recapped by Waste Management shortly before the purchase in order to comply with today’s environmental regulations. Due to Department of Environmental Protection requirements for runoff, Waste Management could only guarantee getting the landfill to a 3 percent slope, too steep for a level soccer field.
“Part of the arrangement is there is more work to be done as far as leveling the field,” Kezer said. “Between Waste, the city and a third party, we’re going to finish making it flat enough for a nice level soccer field.”
The field will need to be leveled to at least a 1 percent slope before the soccer field can be installed, and Kezer said his hope is that process will be worked out by next year. Once that’s been done, then nets, lines, bleachers and flags could be added to finish the job, Kezer said.
Kezer indicated that he has been in discussion with the Amesbury Youth Soccer Association, who has offered to help take care of the prospective field once it’s done.
“They have money set aside for the purchasing of fields and such,” Kezer said. “So they have a pot of money that they’re willing to contribute to finish that project off.”
Kezer said the Amesbury Sports Park, which is located down the street on South Hunt Road, has also expressed interested in using the fields on a rental basis.
“We’re going to work out an arrangement in which we can finish that area to put in a whole ballfield,” Kezer said. “But it’s going to be paid for by the users of the field so that there’s no cost to the taxpayers.”