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SNRA Cleanup Declared ‘A Great Success’
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Saturday, October 16, 2021
 

BY KATE DALY

Organizers are calling the second annual Sawtooth National Recreation Area cleanup “a great success.” Not only did more participants pick up more trash this year, but they experienced fewer incidents of human waste--just 48.

Volunteers were invited to go online and select dates between September 12 and 25 to focus on areas that are easily accessible or more remote.  After signing release forms and arming themselves with a free set of gloves, a spade, plastic bags, hand sanitizer, water and snacks, people then fanned out on their own, took photos and filled out a form to report their hours and findings.

One couple, for example, discovered some men’s underwear at the Stanley Lake day use parking lot. They also discovered a heavy metal chain on the way to the Elk Mountain Trail. But the most common culprit left behind by recreationalists appears to be micro trash--primarily scraps of plastic food wrappers. 

Stevie Gawryluk with Idaho Conservation League said that this year’s survey indicated that 160 people dedicated a total of a thousand hours to the effort. The numbers reflect about a 20 percent increase in both volunteers and bags of trash collected (105) compared to last year.

“Fewer fire rings were naturalized or reduced this year,” she added.

Dalton Warr with Sawtooth Society explained the origins of the cleanup: “As a result of overuse due to increased pandemic visitation last year… the Forest Service was feeling overwhelmed with the impact and asked their partners to help clean up the land. The groups were non-profits whose mission includes the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. We all met and had an event planned within a couple weeks. The community response was impressive and we all decided to make it an annual event and schedule it to include Public Lands Day each year.”

Two first-timers teamed up this year to volunteer for the event. Susan McKee has lived in the Wood River Valley for close to 30 years and often picks up trash along the bike path. She spent several days joining the SNRA cleanup in September and said that overall the trash situation “isn’t horrendous.”

She enjoyed chatting with the folks she ran into. Some thanked her for helping the environment and she encouraged others to do their part by tidying up as they go along.

McKee prefers combing the parts off the beaten path where the wind might blow little bits into the trees and rocks. She circled Titus Lake twice one day, and on a different day wasn’t too surprised at the pairs of socks, goggles, plastic bottles and large number of facemasks littering the trailhead at Prairie Creek. But, she admitted, “I was totally shocked to see so much dog poop.”

“We need to get the word out that that is not respectful, that that is unhealthy,” she said after bagging up some piles and burying others.

McKee took along a shovel and a rake when she ended up working alongside Don Dunkle. He leased a condo for six months to get away from the oppressive heat back home in Tucson, Ariz., and during his first week in Ketchum he volunteered with the Environmental Resource Center to pick up garbage along Highway 75 south of town. Using his grabber, he filled eight bags.

Dunkle signed up to tackle Alturas Lake on the first day of the SNRA cleanup. But, when fire broke out and closed off access, he switched to cruising the pullouts on both sides of Highway 75 between the SNRA Visitor’s Center and Billy’s Bridge. He came across masks and mostly small items, such as straws, cigarettes, bags of chips and elastic hairbands. The toilet paper, he said, was “irritating to pick up, but it needs to be done.”is f

Along Prairie Creek Road McKee and he checked on the campgrounds and found some firepits that weren’t legal. They disassembled some of them and rebuilt a couple of them by moving some rocks.

They naturalized three illegal fire pits and buried half burnt wood and ash at 11 places in a single day.

McKee plans to volunteer again next year but will have to grab another friend. Dunkle, who volunteered with 11 Wood River Valley organizations since April, intends to move on to Seward, Alaska, for his next beat-the-heat adventure.

Gawryluk said she and representatives of other organizations were grateful for all the help they received this year.

“And we cannot wait to show the Sawtooth NRA some more love in 2022,” she added.

This year’s partners included the Idaho Conservation League, Sawtooth Society, Sawtooth Interpretive and Historical Association, National Forest Foundation, Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Environmental Resource Center and Pulaski Users Group, along with supporters Backwoods Mountain Sports, The Elephant’s Perch and Natural Grocers.

 


 

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