Forest Service fights trailhead trash

150 pounds of debris picked up mostly from one trailhead in one day; generates $153 landfill bill

Posted: Monday, January 06, 2003

Holidays and weekends often mean extra work for U.S. Forest Service staffers.

People who pull off the road to party along back roads and trailheads tend to leave their trash. And it's often up to Forest Service staff to clean up what's left behind.

One of the worst spots is the Windfall Lake Trail parking lot, at the end of a short road that leads from Glacier Highway near Herbert River, said Forest Service law enforcement officer Dave Zuniga.

"We have a continuing problem with folks who use that as a party place and they use it and leave their empty containers and pallet nails," he said.

Others skip landfill fees by trucking household garbage, including old furniture, to off-the-road spots, Zuniga said.

Larry Musarra, facilities director for the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, said he regularly cleans up fast-food wrappers, beer bottles, cigarette butts, used condoms, dog poop and common household trash. He said some people just shovel out the back of their trucks or empty ashtrays in the middle of the parking lot, all within sight of one of Juneau's most scenic landmarks.

"Whatever they're doing, they're just dropping stuff out the window with no regard to where it is," he said. "It's very frustrating to see people disregard this beautiful area."

Beaches and trailheads attract partiers who fuel their bonfires with wooden shipping pallets, which leave behind hundreds of nails.

"We have magnets we take out to pick up the nails," said Doug Blanc, a Forest Service recreation planner.

On one day last month, 150 gallons of ash and debris with a total weight of 2,100 pounds, mostly from the Windfall Lake Trailhead, meant a $153 dump bill, according to recreational forester Marc Scholten.

Household trash-dumping can be seasonal and also may be affected by the cost of legal landfill dumping, Blanc said.

"In my experience that tends to happen when the dump rates go up," he said.

The flat rate for a mixed load dumped at the Capitol Disposal landfill went up to $19.95 on Oct. 1, the same time the minimum load weight more than tripled to 500 pounds, said Mike Allison, district manager for Waste Management, which owns Capitol Disposal. He said the change was mandated by the state based on the landfill's scale's ability to weigh small loads.

Allison said his company saw no change in the amount of garbage being brought to the landfill after the rate change. He also said he saw no change in reports of local dumping.

Anyone witnessing dumping or littering in any Forest Service area can call the law enforcement office at 586-8800 or a toll-free hotline, (800) 394-2316.

Zuniga said it's hard to catch trash-dumpers in the act, but many are fined based on evidence found at the scene of the crime.

"We find names, we find prescription bottles, we find addresses, we find homework assignments for kids, little things like that," he said. "They usually get anywhere from a $100 to a $300 fine and they have to pick up the garbage if we find it in a timely manner."

• Ed Schoenfeld can be reached at

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