It’s a familiar and depressing sight in Rim Country — trash lining the roadway and bags of rubbish strewn about a campsite — just another holiday weekend.
But wait. Suddenly, the trash is gone and the forest is restored to its natural glory.
But where did it all go? Could it be a masked hero, covered by the dark of night collecting trash for the common good? Unfortunately, it’s not that glamorous.
It’s one man on a crusade to clean up our forests with a common sense solution that made a big difference this weekend.
Although Jim Estess of Pine does not want to be in the spotlight, his ideas have already made a huge difference in the way the forest looks — and smells.
Over the Labor Day holiday, Estess talked a local waste disposal company to give him a smoking deal on four trash bins to be placed around the Rim Country for weekenders to deposit their refuse.
This isn’t the first time Estess has worked to clean up the forest. He and his wife Cindi cleaned up garbage piles along Highway 87 several weeks ago and Jim was active in the adopt-a-road clean up program in Oregon.
Recently Estess got fired up about all the litter in town during a motorcycle ride on Highway 87, north of Strawberry.
“This was not household trash, no, it was all left over from a camping trip.
“One spot in particular had more than a dozen large bags scattered as far a 100 yards from the main pile, which is probably a result of animals prowling through the mess.
“The stench was noticeable for about 40 yards away.”
The piles of trash contained all the usual stuff from camping: paper plates, paper towels, Styrofoam cups, packaging, and various beverage containers, along with diapers and a plastic washtub that was probably used for bathing a child.
“The amount of trash would indicate that either a large family, or a multiple family group, had spent at least a week in the forest,” he said.
Estess asked himself, “Why can’t people who use and enjoy our forest haul their trash to a Dumpster and dispose of it properly?”
The answer is simple he said: they are either just plain rude, inconsiderate, and lazy, or, they are all of those things, and cheap to boot.
“Why can’t we, as a community, provide Dumpsters located in convenient places so the visitors to our forest will have a proper disposal site to put their garbage in?” he asked.
Frustrated, Estess called the U.S. Forest Service, Arizona Department of Transportation, the town, Waste Matters and the chamber of commerce.
Chelsea Muise, recreational assistant with the Forest Service, said they already place trash bins for holiday weekends at their hardest hit areas, including Houston Mesa campground, Tonto Creek and Fossil Creek trail, but they are always thankful for more help. “People don’t understand the concept of pack it in and pack it out,” she said. “They assume the Forest Service has garbage service, but we don’t.”
Muise said, “We are not following people around with Dumpsters.”
Estess managed to secure four other Dumpsters to supplement the Forest Service’s trash bins. Waste Matters agreed to place them at the Pine Service gas station, one under the bridge at East Verde Estates and two at Flowing Springs. Waste Matters charged Estess minimally for dumping the trash bins, the chamber contributed $50 and the Forest Service provided signs directing the public to the Dumpsters.
“They (Waste Matters) bent over backwards for us,” Estess said.
By the end of the weekend, all of the Dumpsters were full, “meaning that some of that trash did not go into the forests or into the streams,” said John Stanton, Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce manager.
The Dumpsters held 1.36 tons of trash. Estess went through the trash and picked out 20 pounds of aluminum cans, which he donated to the Humane Society.
“We support the Humane Society. We have eight cats and two dogs of our own,” he said.
Trash, trash everywhere
Several weeks ago, he and his wife bagged 15 sacks of garbage, a bag of aluminum cans and two gallons of used motor oil at a pullout near milepost 274.
They then decided to clean up at a forest road entry off Highway 87, across from that pullout. They walked 100 feet each way on the road and 50 feet into the forest “just to see how much trash on the average any given area will yield.”
In this one stop, they picked up one, eight-pound bag of trash, “but I assure you that there are areas of Highway 87 that will yield much more in the same amount of space,” Estess said.
Based on that one site, Estess estimated that each mile of Highway 87 would yield 422 pounds of trash — or about three tons along the road between Payson and Pine.
Estess would like a group to form to continue the holiday trash bin program plus an “Adopt A Dumpster” program so people could sponsor placing a Dumpster for about $50 each in areas hit hard by visitors.
He also suggests that trash bags be placed in convenience stores and gas stations on the weekends with a map showing them locations of trash bins.
“Let’s make it easier for (visitors) to come and visit and leave with their trash.”
For more information, to volunteer or to donate, e-mail Estess at firstname.lastname@example.org.