Hunter works to clean up gravel pits

Posted: Tuesday, July 06, 2010

KENAI - Steve Meyer is trying to maintain the reputation of area hunters by cleaning local gravel pits used for target practice.

Meyer, a member of the Delta Waterfowl duckhunting and conservation group, said that he recently hauled 10 truckloads and 200 bags worth of garbage from two pits owned by the Kenai Natives Association alongside Marathon Road. He started the clean-up in mid-May and finished the majority of the work in a few weeks. A probation officer, he said that he continues to clean on his time off.

Meyer said that his hunter's ethic and appreciation of the sport motivated him to begin the clean-up.

"The idea is to be in nature and experience nature for what it is," he said. "I don't want to be tripping on litter."

"I did it because I'm a nerd," chuckled his hunting partner Christine Cunningham.

Cunningham said that Meyer carries a garbage bag with him whenever they go duck hunting.

"I see him glare at trash when he drives on the road," she said. "He usually turns around to pick it up."

Hunters and shooters use the pits as makeshift ranges, and often leave quite a mess. Meyer said that the pits were filled with televisions, washing machines, bullet hole-ridden aerosol cans and a full sized pop machine along with spent cartridges.

"It looked post-apocalyptic," Cunningham said.

She said that she found a good deal of pyrotechnic devices during the clean-up, including a ball of fire-crackers held together with duct tape. The Nikiski resident used his Chevy pick-up and a snowmachine trailer to schlep larger items to the Kenai transfer station.

Cunningham, who works as assistant to Kenai's city manager, said that a few groups of shooters came by the gravel pits while she and Meyer cleared the area. Some stopped to help or cleaned their mess before they left, but a few saw Meyer and drove off, she said.

According to Cunningham, many target shooters don't know about legitimate ranges in the area, and instead bring appliances to the gravel pits for practice.

She said she was shocked that fathers brought their kids to the pits and taught them to shoot.

"Ironically, it's teaching them to disrespect other's property," she said.

The Kenai Natives Association owns the pits located on either side of Marathon Road. Association Vice Chair Diana Zirul said that she and her group regularly call the Alaska State Troopers on trespassers who use the area as a shooting range. Association Chairman Vernon Stanford said that the his group regularly puts up signs, but that trespassers use them for target practice or rip them down.

"We don't go for the high dollar signs because we know they'll get filled with bullet holes," said Stanford.

Marathon Oil Co. used to clean the pit a few years ago when the company bought gravel from the association, Zirul said. She said that that operation cost several thousand dollars and required large machinery to remove abandoned vehicles.

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