Early December may not be prime weather for many outdoor activities but never the less a small team of volunteers headed down to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to spend some time cleaning up some illegally dumped trash. In an ideal world there would be no illegal dumping, however generational bad habits plus a lack of enforcement resources means fighting an uphill battle in many remote areas.
Our day started with a volunteer meeting at the Genwood and Pedlar Ranger Station in George Washington and Jefferson National Forest just outside Natural Bridge, Virginia. Once the liability paperwork was taken care of and some extra Midland GMRS radios handed out to drivers our convoy set off for Tank Hollow Road.
The first task upon arrival was to take a quick survey of the trash and come up with a basic plan of attack. First up was cleaning trash in and around a fire pit as well as dismantling two illegal fire pits. After that it was collecting the bigger trash items and some tires. The biggest items of the day at this location were a fridge and a chest freezer that had been tossed down the hillside. Given the steepness of the bank the safest option was a controlled drag with the winch.
Once larger items were collected we started loading up the rental truck (and yes, it had the extra insurance) and started ferrying things to the dumpster. While that happened the team kept working on collecting the smaller trash items like cans and bottles — so many cans and so many bottles — strewn along the road.
One of the other things the team did was put up some signage in various locations. The goal is to make our presence known, let people know the area is being watched, and ultimately serve as a deterrent against future illegal dumping.
After this first location the team moved to some dispersed camping sites down along the James River. Once finished collecting trash and putting up more signage the team headed over to another spot in the National Forest to clear up a cache of burnt clothing, some couch cushions, a couch (although it didn’t match the cushions), and of course many many bottles and cans.
All in all the team pulled out around three dozen bags of trash, a dozen tires, a couch, a refrigerator, and a chest freezer. For a small team of only a half dozen people the impact was noticeable as well as appreciated by the Forest Service.
Over the years I have been a part of numerous cleanups in various locations. It’s something that is rewarding for a few reasons. First, it’s a way to give back to organizations like the US Forest Service which are currently struggling with manpower, funding, and other resources. It’s also a way to meet cool people and spend time hanging out for a weekend with likeminded people. Lastly it’s personally rewarding because I want to make sure I am doing my part to leave this place better than I found it.
No one likes cleaning up other people’s trash. It’s probably the number one common denominator between all outdoor enthusiasts. In an ideal world we wouldn’t need organizations like Tread Lightly and we wouldn’t need to organize cleanups like this. However this is the state of things. There are bad people dumping trash illegally. If someone doesn’t clean it up we are more likely to see more closures and less access not just for the bad people but for the good ones as well.
If you are interested in stepping up to do your part reach out to Tread Lightly directly. There are countless cleanups all across the country. If you can’t make it to a cleanup there are ways to donate funds towards cleanup related expenses like dumpster rentals and purchasing things like trash bags and gloves. If you are interested in being a part of a cleanup with ECOA fill out the contact form.