At our last cleanup on 12/30 our County Supervisor John McCowen was there lending a hand as he has many times before. He approached me and asked if we might be willing to help him out with something. There were 4 vacated homeless camps that were right on the Russian River and once it starts raining they would all be washed down stream. Since they were vacant sites and were currently polluting our waters I couldn’t not help.
Nor-Cal Recycled Rock and Aggregates was very kind in granting us the ideal access points to reach these sites. County Supervisor John McCowen and the Mendocino Sheriffs Office went in ahead of time to sweep the camp sites, before we arrived two truckloads were already removed, those included the countless hypodermic needles, drugs, all the dangerous stuff. It’s important to note than when you hear of homeless people camping by the river, they are not always conventional camp sites. What we discovered was shocking. There were bags and buckets full of human waste, more drugs and needles, there were boobie traps set up around the site designed to cause serious harm to those that came near. Banks were excavated as much as 4 feet, they had created their own landfill by digging large holes and filling them with trash (Which would all be washed down stream after first rain). Clothes appear to be single use as anything that wasn’t worn was tossed aside or down river.
That being said, we are sensitive to the needs of all of our people, even those without homes. Our county and its leaders are taking all the right steps to improve our quality of life. Sheriff Tom Allman’s Measure B passed with flying colors and many other services are being reevaluated and overhauled to better tend to the needs of our community.
In the 14 cleanups we did last year we managed to gather a total of 5,565 pounds of trash with 144 volunteers. This one cleanup of 4 camps took 15 volunteers 2 hours and we managed to gather 2,850 pounds of trash. This is by far because of the chemicals, drugs and waste that was currently floating in the river or about to be, made the biggest and best impact to our local environment. As disturbing as it was we did it all with smiles on our faces and had a careful but great time! We filled the Green Team trailer and two trucks!
The first site before
2nd site before
The 3rd site with heavy excavation stairs on the left and was washing machine drum fireplace top right. The rest of the washing machine was left in the middle of the riverbed.
Every site had a teddy bear, this giant one was wearing a Tractor Supply uniform vest
This was a home made land fill that is about to be under water which would have sent all this trash down stream. We emptied the whole thing.