January 17, 2010 @ 8:45 am
Thirteen years ago, a group of people got fed up with the way Glamis was looking. Once the pristine dunes were discovered by all-terrain vehicle enthusiasts and big-time campers, the dunes just weren’t the same. Glamis was becoming littered with plastic wrappers, utensils and even used diapers. Those who frequented the dunes wanted to do something about it before it was too late for Mother Nature’s good, and thus, the annual dunes cleanup day was born. (Story continues below slideshow.)
Charla Teeters, program manager of United Desert Gateway, has been in charge of the dunes cleanup for the past three years. “I start to work on this event in September,” explains Teeters, who uses those four months to make sure that everything is in place, just in time for Martin Luther King weekend.
Dune cleanup day was scheduled intentionally during the Martin Luther King holiday weekend, one of the busiest weekends here, according to Teeters, bringing people in on Thursday and staying until Sunday night for the event.
In past years participants have rounded up a little more than a thousand bags, although surprisingly, those numbers have diminished. “We’re actually seeing some amount of decline,” she said, which could reflect the economy and fewer dunes visitors, she said. Or, Teeters hopes it means that people are becoming more aware of their responsibilities in policing their litter.
Dunes visitors can be fined for not picking up after themselves. Bureau of Land Management rangers and Imperial County Sheriff’s deputies can write tickets for littering, just as anyone can get a ticket for littering on the side of the road.
“We came out Wednesday night,” explained Tracy Forten, a Phoenix resident who volunteered for the cleanup. “We’ve been doing this for about eight years, eight to 10 years,” Forten smiled and proudly noted the 25 bags of trash she and her family hauled in last year.
Linda Lee and her 11-year-old daughter, Jenny, drove the 300 miles from Tucson. The mother/daughter duo rode in a souped-up buggy designed by Lee’s husband, John, that sported a customized turbo Subaru engine and other modifications. This is the sixth year the Lee team made the trip to Glamis just for the cleanup. “We like to hang out till lunch and enjoy the raffle,” Linda Lee said.
Volunteers working the registration booths on Saturday were disappointed not as many locals as dunes visitors showed up for the event. El Centro resident Michelle Ochs, 50, pointed out that aside from herself, there were few if any Imperial Valley volunteers.
While the cleanup was underway, across from the north registration camp was a safety seminar hosted by BLM Park Ranger Carey Goldstein and ATV safety instructor Ella Hartman. Goldstein started the small presentation by demonstrating the meaning of “tread lightly,” focusing his presentation on preservation and respect for the dunes and its wildlife.
By lunch time, Teeters said volunteers brought in five trailer-sized piles of trash, taken right off of the desert floor.