River clean up advocates pick up trash at the swimming hole, but ask county to pony up for trash receptacles for a more permanent solution.
The saga of the Preston swimming hole trash situation took a turn last week when Chris Brokate of the Clean River Alliance and local Casey Carr not only did a clean up of the area, but also started getting wheels in motion to create a more permanent solution than the occasional volunteer clean up. Brokate and Carr are also involved in similar efforts along the riverfront near the First Street Bridge.
The county had recently placed signs warning that the Preston area was under video surveillance, but no cameras are evident.
But Carr and Brokate are hoping education and disposal options will help eliminate the need for punitive measures. Brokate first heard about the problems here through social media.
“I saw a couple of threads on Facebook about Preston Hole,” he said. “I’m familiar with this area, there’s a lot of weekend activity that’s going on here and creating a lot of trash, a lot of dumping in the area. We’ve got similar issues going on at other county parcels in unincorporated areas where there is a lot of activity.”
Carr came to the project through his own personal experience of trash issues along the river in the Cloverdale area. “My mother-in-law took me down to First Street Bridge” he said. “She’s from here and said it would be a nice spot, so I went down there with the kids and I was disgusted, it was terrible. There was so much trash and broken glass, I didn’t even want my kids down there.”
Carr and his family have put in a lot of hours picking up trash at the First Street Bridge and at Preston, despite the fact that Carr works seven days a week most weeks.
“Three days a week I don’t have to be at work until 10:30 so I get up at 5 or 5:30 and get down to the bridge by 6, its daylight, and I spend a couple of hours at a time. Any free time I have, me and Chris hook up and I do what I can. I’m pretty limited, but I want to get out there and do what I can,” Carr said, adding that he’s interested in action, not talk. “My frustration level is up here, but I don’t like pointing fingers either. I feel like which is worse, the people dumping trash, or the people not doing anything but pointing fingers?”
After seeing the state of Preston, including the mounds of human feces and toilet paper, Brokate got on the phone to Fourth District Supervisor James Gore. While nothing is confirmed yet, Brokate is trying to arrange for dumpsters with individual receptacles for different types of waste. But he also wants to put education at the forefront of any plans.
“We’d been thinking about putting in trash cans over at First Street and I called James Gore this week and right away I talked to the head of the county parks division. We want to put dumpsters here so that people have a place to put their trash, with signs to start educating people: pack it in, pack it out, leave no trace, a little sign with a cigarettes going into the trash, “put your butts in their place” and explaining to people that these are areas that don’t get services so we need your help.”
Brokate’s proposal is to provide a volunteer corps to empty the receptacles and cover the trash fees, if the county will provide the dumpsters. He also believes, given the bathroom situation, someone will need to foot the bill for a porta-potty or two.
Both Carr and Brokate don’t believe the solution is banning people from the river.
“The solution is not limiting access to the river either, because that’s what a lot of people would like to do. They would like to keep people from accessing the river, but to limit the river for everybody for a just a few people that are doing this in a few places, and having issues, I think we need to educate people more,” Brokate said. “People need to know if they abuse it, they can lose it.”
“I agree with Chris,” Carr said. “I grew up in Healdsburg and spent a lot of time on Fitch Mountain and there were a lot of places every summer getting fenced off and it was mainly because people were leaving there trash behind, especially right on the river, and that’s not right. But, I think we should be free to come down and be on the river. I understand people are angry and saying, ‘You guys want to trash it, fine I’ll fence it off,’ but I think if we educate, we can fix it.”
Brokate also believes that people local to the problem need to take part in solving this. “The locals need to start adopting these places. If I lived here I would be coming here on a regular basis while these people are here, cleaning up around them and letting them know there are trash cans up there and letting them know to get rid of their trash. These aren’t people coming from out of the area, everybody around here knows about this place and everybody is coming to because it’s a nice place. This isn’t a tourist attraction.”