Hi Country 4 Wheelers prepare for annual Hubbard Mesa cleanup
Just one person can make a difference out at Hubbard Mesa, a Bureau of Land Management administrator said.
“We want to continue to remind the public it takes a collaborative effort,” BLM field manager Larry Sandoval said. “If nothing hits home, I hope that does.”
Hubbard Mesa, a 2,480-acre expanse next door to Rifle that boasts several outdoor recreation opportunities, continues to deal with refuse and dumping issues — which are said to have persisted since the 1970s.
The land is managed mostly by the BLM and Garfield County. Dumping citations over the past two years have been slim to none, the county said in early March.
There are, however, groups of volunteers that take time every year trying to clean up the area as best as possible. Hi Country 4 Wheelers, a Glenwood Springs-based off-highway vehicle group that also helps conduct trail maintenance throughout the county, spends at least one day a year picking up thousands of pounds of trash scattered throughout the area.
“We’re so lucky to have quite a few companies in the area that donate their dumpsters,” Hi Country 4 Wheelers President Jennifer Isenhart said. “It’s a great effort for a lot of people to volunteer to clean up some public lands.”
Isenhart said the group teams up with BLM and Rifle Area Mountain Bike Organization (RAMBO) during the cleanup, which typically occurs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. the first Saturday of May. This year, that’s May 1.
As to how items like abandoned vehicles and discarded waste continue to appear at Hubbard Mesa elicits many answers.
“There’s a huge combination of problems. Yes, there’s a lack of enforcement, to a point,” she said. “(But) the predominant amount of trash is on private land. They have not fenced off the area.”
There are two popular routes to access Hubbard Mesa — county roads 244 and 242. Those roads, however, receive minimum maintenance. Meanwhile, portions straddling those roads are in fact privately owned, with BLM surrounding the majority of remaining real estate.
The area is also in close proximity to an urban setting, which makes it more vulnerable to dumping, the BLM said.
“Those folks that are going out and intentionally dumping may be thinking it’s on public land, but it’s on private,” Public Affairs Specialist Eric Coulter said. “It’s a growing issue and those people who seek to use those lands for dumping, they’re going to be cited.”
Isenhart said it also ebbs and flows at Hubbard Mesa. When recycling is profitable, people tend not to dump. Years when recycling aren’t so lucrative, refuse tends to accumulate.
The 4 Wheelers, which took over Hubbard Mesa clean-up efforts from another volunteer organization 13 to 15 years ago, one year encountered an abandoned flatbed trailer with about between 4 to 5 vehicles still attached to it.
“People would just dump their vehicles out there, so yeah we loaded those up,” Isenhart said. “That was fun because you have to have a front end loader to pick those up.”
Another issue facing Hubbard Mesa dumping is the presence of squatters, Isenhart said.
“The last two or three yeas have been the most disgusting clean ups when it comes to human waste,” she said. “But then when you talk about squatters, one of the reasons we have homeless, there’s not enough housing.”
In another effort to try and mitigate dumping and refuse issues, the BLM advises land users to clean up their area after enjoying outdoor recreation. This includes everything from trash to removal of targets and shell casings for shooting sports.
“It doesn’t take much effort to pick those things up,” Sandoval said.
The 4 Wheelers encourage anyone to join in during their volunteer cleanup of Hubbard Mesa in May. Lunch is provided.
“It’s all of our responsibilities together to be the better steward of the land,” Isenhart said. “Somebody’s got to step in somewhere.”
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