Roundabout Sisters - Just pick up your trash, ok?
Last updated 7/12/2022 at Noon
Two weeks ago The Nugget profiled some forest residents, each portrayed as good citizens caught in hardship but doing a commendable job of keeping their forest homes safe and tidy. Two took aim at some of their fellow forest neighbors whose housekeeping left much to be desired.
Nobody that I know is more dedicated to preserving the beauty and safety of our woods than my neighbor Dave, a nurse. Dave and his wife live within 20 yards of the Deschutes National Forest, and have direct view of the increasing number of forest dwellers who camp semipermanently nearby within walking distance to town for work in some cases and shopping.
Dave is a bit of a walking dichotomy. He regularly treks into the woods within a three-mile radius of downtown and picks up trash. Lots of trash. If only it were trash. He often encounters a sanitation nightmare, carefully documenting it on a geo-mapping app on his phone.
He reports his activity and findings to the Forest Service, who allow him use of their trailer and dumpster for picking up and disposing of the bags and bags of debris, trash, and discards he and his fellow volunteers have collected.
A week ago he was aided by two ninth-graders doing a practicum on forest management, one of their teachers, and a forest protection officer, in cleaning up a patch about a half-mile north and west of North Pine Street, where the pavement ends and dirt road begins.
We have a tireless volunteer toiling to rid the woods of unsightly and occasionally dangerous trash. This same volunteer complains vocally and regularly of the misdeeds and wanton carelessness of some of his forest neighbors.
Last month, he used a three-minute allotment of time to address City Council, where he spoke of the problem.
“They asked questions and seemed genuinely concerned about the problem,” Dave told me.
I get it. He’s entitled to gripe. I can sense his deep frustration. He’d like those he thinks enable such behavior, who he finds are somewhat blinded by their idealism, to take over his “job” in the forest — for only a day or two, or a week.
Admittedly, I haven’t pitched in with hard labor. Instead, I’m sitting comfortably at my keyboard, trying to see and report on all sides of an issue that seemingly is getting more agitated. As the forest heats up with summer temps, so do the tempers of those who predict gunfire or wildfire caused by a stoned or schizophrenic forest dweller that might have a catastrophic impact on our otherwise idyllic village.
We referenced Dave’s last name and location of where he lives in an article several months ago that gave him enough concern of retaliation that he bought a video surveillance system for his home. Thus, I’m skipping his surname.
Why spend so much time picking up trash and then complain about it? I asked him bluntly.
“If I don’t or somebody doesn’t, it will get just worse and worse and start to look like the entry to Salem or Eugene. We can’t let that happen here.”
Talk about investment in community.
We talked about how much worse it is in Bend, where a crackdown is underway and eviction notices are being issued in a notorious area of the Deschutes National Forest known as China Hat, home to hundreds of forest dwellers. I ask myself if some of those folk will make the woods around Sisters home.
Before anybody pops off about compassion, Dave’s understanding of the houseless issue exceeds those most likely to find fault with his griping. He is a regular member of the Sisters Homeless Networking Group, an advocacy ensemble that meets monthly.
What’s the answer, I ask him?
“Just pick up your trash!” he says pleadingly.
The pictures shown here of the before-and-after of last week’s outing make the point. He is not calling for eviction or strict enforcement of the 14-day camping rule. He knows that for a lot of our forest dwellers, they have no option.
In fact, he regularly picks up the bagged trash of some forest dwellers who keep a clean site but have no car or place to take their refuse.
We have a shared sense that this is often seen as a littering issue. It’s not litter. He and occasional other volunteers like his wife, Sharon, or our joint neighbor Scott, find the ugliest assortment of feces, putrescibles, needles, razors, spent cartridges, and worse that, apart from their odiousness, are a threat to pets and wildlife.
He reached out to me after my characterization of forest dwellers as neighbors.
“These aren’t neighbors — those who trash our woods,” he said. “Maybe in some biblical sense, but not in any civilized way are these my neighbors.”
Dave knows that the abandoned RV here, now in its third year of residency, will be re-occupied in another week or two and he will have to clean it up all over again. The truly good neighbor won’t be seeking any recognition. He’ll just trudge on, and I doubt that we’ll soon reach a time where folks just pick up their trash.