From the top of Pipeline Road and throughout Williamsport Forest Road, the view is majestic. It’s not uncommon to see bald eagles, curious critters and hungry deer during Clatsop County Sheriff’s Deputy Justin Dersham’s shift on forest patrol.
But there is something obstructing his view, and the safety of the area he often inspects.
And that is trash – from old boats, busted television sets and couch cushions, to elk carcases not hidden from view and shooting targets that are too close to the logging roads.
As a result, the Oregon Department of Forestry is looking to close off vehicle access to the area, ruining the pristine view for everyone. And a real shame, Dersham said.
“People, and not a lot of people, just a few people, have been pretty discourteous related to treating the forest environment, and it’s going to start resulting in some land closures and some access closures,” Dersham said. “It’s another one of those cases where 2 percent of the population are ruining it for the other 98 percent.”
Dersham said it’s excessive vandalism and dumping occurring in the state forest that is creating the issue. Dumping animal carcasses in the woods is legal, as long as it is out of site. When it is dumped in plastic garbage bags however, it becomes a problem. April 18, elk remains were near the roadway in various states of decay. A boat was dumped over an embankment. Each spur-end displayed broken glass, shotgun shell casings and trash.
“A lot if it is people who go up to shoot and they choose inappropriate areas or they’ll stack a bunch of targets out there and shoot at them and they’ll get in their cars and drive off and leave with their targets still sitting there,” Dersham said. He said he is not against shooting firearms in the woods, but doing it safely is a very important step. He is a firearms instructor for the Sheriff’s department.
Most of the littering – which is a crime – is occurring on Williamsport Forest Road. Pipeline Road is experiencing its own kind of vandalism. All Terrain Vehicles, or ATVs, are leaving the gravel road and making tracks of their own.
Dersham said he has suspects in a few of the dumping sites.
“If you’re going to dump trash illegally, you probably shouldn’t dump boxes that have your name and address on them,” he said with a laugh.
The date of the road closure has not yet been announced, but Dersham said, “it’s probably coming pretty soon.” A notice will be posted 24 hours before the closure at the site.
“People will still be able to walk into the area. However, you won’t be able to get a motorized vehicle around those gates legally driving on the gravel road,” he said.
The Svensen Market Road access is likely to remain open. The access gate on Scandinavian Cannery Road or from Astoria on Highway 202 will be locked. The closure is not permanent but how long the closure will be in effect has not yet been determined.
Public support needed
“It’s going to have to be in place until we get things under control,” Dersham said. “We’re going to need public support to get it under control.”
That support includes reporting those seen dumping trash, carcases and even live animals on the property. Monday, Dersham spotted a live chicken that had been dumped. It fled into the brush before he could locate it.
Support also includes reporting people who are shooting in areas that are unsafe and taking ATVs off-road.
Helping to clean the area up is also part of the solution. Dersham said inmates on work crew will be brought out to clean up the sites. Volunteers who clean up the land are also appreciated.
“If there is one thing I want people to get out of this is that we appreciate any and every effort the 98 percent, vs. the 2 percent, make to help keep things clean up here,” Dersham said. “If you see somebody dumping trash or shooting a target and then leaving it behind, ask them to clean it up. If that’s not going to be safe to do or you don’t feel comfortable doing it, then give us a call. Let us come deal with the issue.
“If you’re going to come out here for a weekend and you’re civic minded enough to bring your own trash bag and maybe pick some stuff up, we love that. That’s absolutely awesome and if more people do it, it helps keep the access to these areas open and the gates don’t get shut as often. I love seeing people up here having fun. That’s just great. I don’t want to see that go away because there’s just a few rude individuals who decided they were going to be messy.”
This story originally appeared in Daily Astorian.