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Community spirit corrals trash at illegal dumping sites on Squaw Pass

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By Corinne Westeman

Once upon a time, people found a mystical forest near their town. No matter what they threw into the forest — beer cans, televisions, couches, animal carcasses — it all magically disappeared. The forest seemed to swallow everything the townspeople dumped there.

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To their chagrin, local residents have found the magical portal where all this trash has spewed out — at various turnouts along Squaw Pass Road. And, on Oct. 26, they gathered to clean up these illegal dumping sites.

About 20 volunteers, spearheaded by Evergreen Rotary member Tim Eagan and others, drove up the pass to haul several hundred pounds of trash down.

“It’s the first step in a long process,” Eagan said. “The goal is to get signs up there that discourage people from dumping, littering, camping and building illegal fires.

“We also want to raise awareness that dumping is illegal,” he continued. “Not only could you face up to $1,000 in fines, but you could also spend 30 days in jail.”

While trash found at these sites suggests the problem has been going on for decades, Eagan and other volunteers who live along Squaw Pass Road said they noticed the dumping problem worsened after the Evergreen transfer station closed in September 2014.

“It was mostly litter before,” said Squaw Pass area resident and volunteer Jerry Siegel. “Now, it’s actual dumping — doors, cabinets, refrigerators, anything.”

Nancy Judge, a Squaw Pass area resident and also a candidate for county commissioner, said she wanted to help because “it’s in our own backyard.”

“Dumping doesn’t make any sense to me — there are legal alternatives,” Judge said. “And I think (these cleanup efforts) need to happen more often.”

The volunteers herded a convoy of trucks, including a tow truck from Bear Creek Towing Evergreen, and other vehicles to multiple sites along Squaw Pass Road. The biggest and worst site, Eagan said, was about a mile west of the intersection with Witter Gulch Road.

In a few hours, the volunteers had filled dozens of garbage bags, truck beds and a trailer with all sorts of refuse. One volunteer pointed out beer cans with pull tabs that were made in the 1970s; another found a King Soopers deli tray that had a sell-by date from last month.

Other items included a recently used fire pit; several bullet casings along with broken glass near the road; whiskey and wine bottles; carpeting and closet doors; a hot tub; and a deer carcass. Some speculated that the carcass was naturally occurring, while Eagan wondered if it was a leftover from poaching.

“(Dumping) happens more than we know, and that’s the point — people dump stuff where it’s not going to be seen,” said Ralph Bradt of the U.S. Forest Service. “And it’s hard to keep up with the stuff that we do know about. So this (cleanup) makes a big difference.”

Eagan believes that sometimes people dump illegally because they can’t afford the fees at transfer stations. He suggested there could be free days, when people can bring anything in without having to pay.

“I, personally, would be willing to pay a few more cents or dollars in taxes if it meant people would have that option,” he said. “Because we’re going to have to pay for it either way. If this (dumping) problem isn’t solved, we will have to pay to have crews come out here and clean it.

“If there’s already debris there, people won’t think twice about adding to it.”

As the volunteers collected trash, Eagan thanked them for their time and effort, and said he hoped to organize other cleanup days on the weekends, when more people are available.

“This is the start of something great,” he said.

For information on legal trash collection sites or how to help with the cleanup efforts, contact Eagan at tjeagan333@gmail.com.