SILT MESA — A group of teenage Boy and Girl Scouts has been traipsing through the backcountry acreage of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), using a pickup truck with a winch up front to drag out cars, refrigerators and any other metallic junk they can find, to raise money for their scouting activities, trips and other needs.
“Most of these kids are Venture Scouts,” said John Bellio of Silt Mesa, whose 15-year-old son, Alan, has been in the troop for about a year and is one of the backcountry picker uppers.
“I kinda started it just for a fundraiser,” said Alan Bellio, explaining that it is up to the teens to raise the money for whatever activities they set their sights on.
He picked this particular activity, he said, “because there’s a lot of scrap metal up behind our house,” which is close to the boundary of the BLM terrain. “It’s mostly cliffs and gullies, very up and down.”
“They’ve worked to get this stuff out,” John Bellio said, recalling that to get one ancient refrigerator out of a gully the teens first had to empty it of the dirt that had sifted in over decades and filled the old machine completely.
“They shoveled dirt for hours,” Bellio said, adding that it was both girls and boys doing the work.
Sabrina Carmichael, known as the “crew advisor” for the Venture Scouts, said there are about a dozen members, aged 14-18, of the co-ed organization, which is affiliated with the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America. She said there are five of her troop doing the scrap-metal project — her daughter and son, Acacia (16) and Gavin (14) Carmichael, along with Dana Brent, 16, Xavier Loya, 18, and Bellio.
“It’s more difficult [than] most of the troop’s activities,” Sabrina Carmichael acknowledged. “It’s a little more extreme.”
But, she added, the Venture Scouts are allowed to “do a little more extreme activities, to push the limit just a little,” because they are of an age where the typical, door-to-door fundraising projects are not engaging enough to hold their attention. And the teens seem to like doing the work, she said.
“The adults just kind of sit back and watch, and give them a little guidance,” confirmed John Bellio, with a chuckle.
But John Bellio is doing more than sitting back and watching for this project. It is his truck and winch that are being used for the gathering of the scrap metal, and it will be he who drives the accumulated junk to Denver for sale to a scrap dealer.
“It’s just fuel and time, which is what you do as a parent,” said John Bellio on Friday.
It was also John Bellio who got permission from the BLM for the Venture Scouts to take on this project, which would be illegal otherwise.
“It’s actually against the law to do that sort of thing,” said Chris Joyner, BLM spokesman. “Even if it’s trash, if it’s old stuff, that can tell us a lot about the early settlements.”
John Bellio said he had actually contributed to the arrest and prosecution of one man who was dumping without permission on BLM land. Bellio saw the man drive past his house with a pickup loaded with junk, and followed him to tell him that what he was doing was illegal and then report it to the BLM.
“A local guy,” Bellio said. “He was going to take it to the dump, and a friend of his told him, ‘I know a place you can dump for free’” and showed him the way past the Bellios’ home.
The Venture Scouts had just about filled up a trailer to be delivered to a scrap dealer by the end of last week, and then they planned to do it all over again.
John Bellio said anyone who wants to contribute old scrap metal to the project is welcome to call his cell phone, 970-989-0161, or Carmichael’s, 970-274-6470, to arrange a pickup.