Cold weather is putting an end to the recreational camping season but not the amount of trash being dumped on the Deschutes National Forest.
This week, we received reports of areas near Dillon Falls being trashed by campers staying beyond the two-week dispersed camping time limit.
There is indeed trash accumulating in user-made camping areas along County Road 41 that connects Bend to the Lava Island, Dillon Falls and Benham Falls areas.
“Some people that are overstaying here are recreating. Some people that are here are perhaps working but not able to afford housing, and some people have other issues whether it’s mental health or financial issues for why they are living on the national forest,” said Jean Nelson-Dean, Deschutes National Forest public affairs officer.
Dumping on public lands is not a new problem, but Nelson-Dean says it is getting worse, especially around Bend and Sisters.
Because the Forest Service does not have a budget for picking up garbage in user-made campsites, most cleanups are done by volunteers.
“The occasional dumping I used to see in the forest when I was in high school has become a regular occurrence,” said Kevin Hopper, who has been involved in or leading cleanups of garbage from the forest along China Hat Road for almost a decade.
“I think one of the main reasons I clean up the forest is I want future generations to experience the forest as it is naturally,” Hopper said. “If we continue to fill the forests full of garbage, generations after us will not have the opportunity to experience forests and, eventually, areas like wilderness.”
Nelson-Dean says the Forest Service welcomes volunteer assistance in cleaning up garbage.
“We ask them to work with Discover Your Forest which is our friend’s group. They can line up and organize things so that they are done safely. We’d love to work with folks willing to step forward and be stewards of the national forest,” she said.
I saw evidence of clean up of the user-made campsites near Dillon Falls but I could not identify who is coordinating the effort.
There is still plenty of trash that needs to be properly disposed.