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Illegal campers move right back in to cleared area along Wild and Scenic River

PHOTO COURTESY OF FANS 
 - The Steamboat Rock area of BLM property off of Lower Bridge Road before volunteers with Friends and Neighbors of the Deschutes Canyon Area cleared away trash.

Hypodermic needles, abandoned vehicles, four large buckets of human waste — these are just a few of the things volunteers found while cleaning up 40 acres of Bureau of Land Management property on Earth Day, Thursday, April 22.

"The trash is ugly. It disgraces the designation as a Wild and Scenic River," says Marilynne Keyser. The Deschutes is federally protected as a Wild and Scenic River.

Keyser heads up the Friends and Neighbors of the Deschutes Canyon Area. She and Jeff Scheetz organized the 30 volunteers who helped clean up the Steamboat Rock area along Lower Bridge Road.

"The day before, we had a team of six people who picked up garbage along the bottom of the cliffs," says Scheetz. The volunteers used ropes and wenches to drag the garbage safely to the top of the cliff where they could take it off to the dump. "Most of the tires were thrown over the side. A microwave, a satellite dish, a couch. The couch was inside a cave on the side of a cliff."

"This is on the rim of the Deschutes River, and they were throwing their trash over the edge," says Keyser. "People dump tires in this beautiful place to avoid paying dump fees. It's glaring against the beauty of this canyon."

Thirty volunteers worked all day and cleared away more than 10 cubic yards of garbage.

"When we were all done, it looked amazing!" says Keyser.

Until a volunteer went back Saturday to find people setting up camp in the areas they had just restored.

"Apparently, a couple of websites advertise places to stay with your RV," says Keyser. "They had on the website saying this is a great place to camp for free."

PHOTO COURTESY OF FANS 
 - The same area after FANS volunteers cleared away trash. The Earth Day project covered 40 acres near the rim of the Deschutes River Cayon.Then on Sunday, Keyser says, BLM law enforcement had to roust yet another five groups of campers to leave the area.

BLM and FANS were able to get the websites to remove the incorrect advertisement.

BLM does allow camping for up to two weeks in areas not designated for protection.

Keyser witnesses increased camping, dumping and illegal off-roading on BLM property.

"I realize people are overusing public lands because they're sick of being inside," says Keyser.

She says some are making the area unsafe and unsightly for others who want to use it, hikers, backpacking campers, horseback riders.

Even the volunteers had to steer clear of some of the debris.

"We needed to be careful of things that are toxic," says Keyser. "A Hazmat team is coming back for the tires, human excrement and needles."

Keyser wants the BLM to place large boulders to block access to vehicles. She hopes for good fencing and permanent signage to keep the trails pristine between Earth Day cleanups. Maybe her team can work on a different project next Earth Day.


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