Hubbard Mesa receives a thorough Spring cleaning on May Day |

Hubbard Mesa receives a thorough Spring cleaning on May Day

Michele Crawford drags out a fridge door from a site used for shooting at Hubbard Mesa on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Loud shots from a shiny revolver serenaded the surrounding rocks and mesas as Alex Crawford cautiously approached a group of guys doing target practice at Hubbard Mesa.

The past president of the Hi Country 4 Wheelers would politely interrupt their Saturday morning fun with a trash bag in hand. He’d tell them he was participating in an annual clean up and that him and two others were going to spiff the place up.

A volunteer drags out refuse from Hubbard Mesa on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

After he and fellow volunteers Eric Isenhart and Michele Crawford dragged out items like refrigerator doors, scraps of metal and old rags, the shooters were quick to acknowledge their efforts.

“I think that it’s great that these guys are out here helping keep our community clean,” Bird Wilkins, a Grand Junction resident who graduated Rifle High School in 1985, said. “It‘s sad, because we like to shoot and when we bring targets, we pick up. We’ve always been taught, you take it into the forest, you take it out of the forest.”

Wilkins said he always picks up his brass — otherwise known as shell casings.

“It’s neat to see the community come out here, because this is land for everybody and all it takes is just a couple idiots to ruin it for everybody,” he said. “So, we sure appreciate it.”

Saturday’s May Day cleanup, which included members White River Trail Runners ATV/UTV Club, Rifle Area Mountain Bike Organization, the Bureau of Land Management as well as many community volunteers, ultimately yielded two dumpsters full of trash, furniture and other debris and a half a metal recycling dumpster.

Eric Isenhart collects scrap metal from Hubbard Mesa on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

The effort also yielded approximately 17 tires. It started at 9 a.m. and didn’t end until after 3 p.m.

It included 50 volunteers.

Larry Sandoval, field manager for BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office in Silt, said loads like this are generally pretty typical. Two years ago, volunteers collected 10 tons of trash and 30 tons of metal.

Hubbard Mesa, a 2,460-acre playground with 50 miles of single track ATV and Jeep trails, is sometimes used as an illegal dumping ground. In addition, there’s minimum enforcement.

Bird Wilkins demonstrates the use of his pistol at Hubbard Mesa on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

“A lot of the stuff that gets picked up today are shotgun shell casings and broken up targets,” Sandoval said. “It doesn’t take much effort to bring out a paper target, put it on a platform and then you can take with you, versus leaving it out there for these folks and the BLM to pick up.”

The annual cleanup marks an ongoing educational effort to help prevent further dumping and messes.

“Doing this, it sometimes may feel thankless, it may feel endless, but it’s not,” Sandoval said. “It’s worthwhile because even though we do it every year. If we didn’t, it would look more like a dumping ground; itwould be normalized. So, we appreciate the effort of getting it cleaned up every year.”

Shotgun shells on the ground at Hubbard Mesa on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Sandoval said it’s all about keeping Rifle’s backyard clean.

“It’s right here and so close to town and it’s low elevation so it gets a lot of access.” Sandoval said. “So, we want to encourage people to come out and continue enjoying their public lands; just to do it responsibly. Whether its mountain biking, riding OHVs and UTVs, recreational target shooting, just pick up after yourself.”

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or

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