SAVAGE CREEK — A group of hunters gave up their Saturday morning to put a small dent in the amount of garbage littering Josephine County forests.
Members of the local chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association did their part for humanity and critters, removing household trash, furniture and appliances along Savage Creek Road, east of Grants Pass.
"So sad," said Debbie Bramblett, whose husband, Russ, helped wrangle 10 other volunteers, assisted by a couple of Bureau of Land Management workers. "This is beautiful country. It's a shame."
It's a shame that is repeated way too often across the county.
Phil Rheiner, hazardous materials coordinator for BLM, gave a "really rough" guess at the amount of known garbage still out there in forests around the county: about 1,000 square yards of trash and junk, including tires, construction debris and household garbage.
The 30-yard trash bin used at Saturday's work site was about 22 feet long, 8 feet wide and 6 feet high. Multiply that by 33 to get an idea about how much garbage Rheiner was talking about.
People simply are failing to take their garbage to a transfer station, where it costs about $10 to discard an appliance or piece of furniture. They probably are avoiding the fees, or they might not want others to know what they're dumping. They might just be lazy. Whatever the reason, they obviously don't care.
Some get caught. Most don't.
"I don't know what the answer is," Russ Bramblett said.
After the group put in a couple hours and the site again looked like it should, Bramblett fired up a tailgate grill and served burgers. The drivers of some passing vehicles stopped by briefly to thank them for their work.
Federal money paid for the trash bin, and Les Schwab donated trash bags. BLM supplied "grab sticks" used to pick up items.
Going south, or uphill, on Savage Creek Road from the Rogue River Highway, smaller dump sites were plainly visible, including one with a large appliance and another showing a hot tub. A bunch of spent shotgun shells were at another location.
Items found at the work site included three couches, multiple TVs, a washing machine, a mattress, box springs, a stereo "and a whole lot of trash."
There was garbage on side roads and down embankments. The task wasn't exactly easy work for a group whose members were mostly pushing retirement age.
"We learned something," Russ Bramblett said. "Next time, we'll bring wheelbarrows, pitchforks and rakes." Heavy gloves, too.
"This really makes a difference," Rheiner said, looking over the cleaned-up landscape.
Around the county, other groups and individuals have done other clean-up projects. Another group recently cleaned a site near Waldo.
Anyone who wants to conduct a cleanup on BLM land can contact Rheiner at 541-471-6500.
"I'm happy to talk trash," he said.
— Reach reporter Shaun Hall at 541-474-3722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.