Panoramic views, excitement a surprise for visitors to Lamb Canyon Landfill

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People interested in getting a seagull’s-eye-view at one of Riverside County’s largest landfills soon will have that chance, as well as an opportunity to see how a landfill protects residents’ health by safely dispatching 2,000 tons of trash a day. The Marion V. Ashley Lamb Canyon Education Center opens soon, and tours by school groups and others already have been booked into early next year.

So, you’re wondering why anyone would even be interested in visiting a landfill?

The goal at the open-air center is to educate residents about the importance of the landfill operations. From a bluff 200 feet above the Lamb Canyon Landfill near Beaumont, visitors can see the enormous activity that goes on six days a week. Mega machines shove a mountain of trash non-stop, covering it with layers of dirt to dispose of it safely, protect groundwater and prevent the spread of disease.

 So how much trash is 2,000 tons a day? In one day, Lamb Canyon matches the amount of trash that five million annual visitors to Yosemite National Park and 2,800 park staff members have generated annually in recent years.

The fall and winter bring an unexpected attraction, when the county hires falconers to fly raptors at the Lamb Canyon. Falcons and hawks scare off seagulls to prevent them from carrying away a trashy meal — which would present a potential public-health hazard.

“Kids love it,” said Hans Kernkamp, general manager and chief engineer of the county Waste Resources Department.

The raptors are not flown to attack the seagulls but the scavengers immediately fly for their life as soon as they see a predator in the air. (Don’t miss a short video about raptors at the landfill at www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgnTncwKISg.) Raptors not only are exciting to watch, they capture attention and make it easier to educate visitors.

“Most people don’t think a lot about how much trash our society generates,” Kernkamp said. “Hopefully, bringing people to the site and showing them the sheer size of the landfill operation makes them think more about recycling, composting and other ways to reduce the flow of trash.”

A closed-circuit camera linked to a television inside the center gives visitors a closer view of operations as they happen. Across the landfill, workers recover salvageable bicycles that are then provided to nonprofit groups and rehabbed for reuse. Metals are separated and recycled, green waste is shredded into mulch, and potentially toxic waste from computers and other electronics is sorted and disposed of safely.

But because of its bluff-top location, the visitor center offers more than just a glimpse into landfill operations. Looking into the landfill chasm, bulldozers manhandle the giant trash pile. In another direction, panoramic views stretch back toward valleys and mountains.

“You wouldn’t expect such beautiful sights and interesting things to see at a landfill tour,” said Supervisor Marion Ashley. “Maybe Disney will notice!”

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