LaPorte County officials are moving forward to turn a mountain of trash along Interstate 94 into a major tourist attraction with ideas of zip lines and slopes for sledding.
Jack Arnett, executive director of the LaPorte County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said a converted landfill could rank right behind Lake Michigan and Blue Chip Casino as a local attraction.
"It has to be right up there with them if we're able to take this to the point they're talking about," Arnett said.
Chicago-based consultants Weaver Boos was hired a few months ago by the LaPorte County Board of Commissioners to look into possible uses of the Waste Management landfill outside Michigan City.
Zip lines along with hiking trails, areas for dirt biking, slopes for sledding and tobogganing were among the potential uses cited for the once putrid smelling landfill closed more than a decade ago.
There was even mention of a look out on top of the landfill to provide scenic views.
The 300-plus acre site also could have spaces for hotels and other businesses. Canoeing is also possible after tests of retention pond water there revealed it is "cleaner than Lake Michigan and the lakes we have around here," LaPorte County Commissioner Dave Decker said.
The idea is viewed as a way to create jobs and would certainly add to the $600 million in revenue tourism brought to LaPorte County last year, Arnett said.
"We're in support of the direction they're going," Arnett said.
LaPorte County attorney Shaw Friedman said the commissioners decided last week to form a committee made up of various elected and appointed officials to look into tax revenue needed for such a project. It will also discuss putting together a contract with Waste Management over use of the firm's property.
Decker said there will probably be meetings in the coming months to get input on what residents would like offered at the old dump.
He said the idea might take years to come to fruition but feels the dividends will be worth the effort and wait.
"It'll be a couple of year process, but down the road we're going to have something that's pretty outstanding," Decker said.
The county forced Waste Management to cap and close the dump more than a decade ago due to problems with odor and trash blowing off the site.
"Some very exciting possibilities to finally convert that blight, that mountain at the entrance to LaPorte County into something that's an attractive destination," Friedman said.