Some people are using Wayne National Forest as a dumping ground for anything from couches to kitchen appliances.
Illegal dumping is one of the issues facing the only national forest in Ohio, the forest’s Public Affairs Officer Gary Chancey said. The most common items include scrap appliances, construction debris, tires, furniture and more.
“A lot of (the bigger items) that are dumped are things … you’d have to pay to throw away,” Erin Sykes, Zero Waste’s program director, said. “Whether it’s a learned habit or whether it’s trying to avoid paying for throwing away their trash, those are two big contributors. It’s a lot of wide open land, so it’s hard to monitor.”
Rural Action, a local environmental conservation group, has identified 124 dumpsites on public and private lands in Athens, Hocking, Perry and Morgan counties. Wayne National Forest has partnered with Rural Action’s Zero Waste Initiative to conduct cleanups of the forest. The next cleanup event is Sept. 30.
“Litter damages ecosystems and animal habitats,” Chancey said. “Because illegal dumps can pose a health and safety hazard, it is critical to clean up litter and illegal dumps as soon as possible.”
Since the partnership between Rural Action and Wayne National Forest began in 2014, 21 dumpsite cleanups have been conducted, and more than 200 volunteers have logged about 600 hours.
“The agreement expands the Wayne National Forest and Rural Action-Zero Waste Programs ongoing efforts by sharing resources to protect and enhance watershed areas threatened by illegal dumping in and adjacent to the Wayne National Forest,” Chancey said.
The partnership with Rural Action also helped to secure a $12,000 grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for a trailer stocked with litter and dumpsite cleanup equipment.
Everyone, not just those who spent time in the Wayne, should care, Chancey said.
“Neglect and apathy take root in a neighborhood,” he said. “By volunteering their time to clean up illegal dumpsites, many students have taken action to help make a difference in their community, which includes Wayne National Forest.”
Originally published for The Post on Sept. 14, 2017.