National forest coughs up discarded household goods

San Juan National Forest’s Jim O’Neil and Missy Carter carry away a couch they had pulled up a steep embankment Wednesday near the lower campground at Hermosa Creek. It was thrown down the hillside by unknown illegal dumpers. Enlarge photo

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald

San Juan National Forest’s Jim O’Neil and Missy Carter carry away a couch they had pulled up a steep embankment Wednesday near the lower campground at Hermosa Creek. It was thrown down the hillside by unknown illegal dumpers.

U.S. Forest Service employees at times get into the junk-removal business – like Wednesday when Jim O’Neil and Missy Carter pulled an orange-and-black sofa with a plaid pattern and a hot-water heater from a canyon below the Hermosa Creek Campground.

“It happens all too frequently,” said Columbine District Ranger Matt Janowiak. “We spend $2,000 a year in landfill fees getting rid of this discarded stuff. The cost of labor and transportation isn’t included.”

Castoffs such as old vehicles, refrigerators, water heaters, couches and electronics turn up regularly, Janowiak said. The most frequent drop points are fairly close to town – wherever people figure they won’t get caught, he said.

“There are people who take an old television into the woods for target practice,” Janowiak said.

The most memorable item probably was a huge commercial refrigerating beer case discovered about three years ago in the HD Mountains near Bayfield, Janowiak said.

“Incredibly, there was still beer in it,” Janowiak said.

“If crews find something in the normal course of their work that can be removed, they do it,” Janowiak said. “If they can’t, they report it, and we send someone.”

He said an old camper on Missionary Ridge is awaiting removal.

Volunteers help the agency with cleanup of trash, Janowiak said. The Creeper Jeepers, a four-wheel-drive club, has towed discarded vehicles from the Mitchell Lakes area and Chicago Basin.

daler@durangoheald.com

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