Community helps with trash cleanup near Kennewick

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 1, 2013 

The cyclists who've been tracking illegal dumpsites in the foothills south of Kennewick the last few months say cleanup is under way thanks to an outpouring from the community.

More than 200 tires have been removed, along with some trash. And community members and groups have volunteered to head out to the hills to haul away even more.

"It's great," said Al Potter of Kennewick, one of the cyclists who has been working to raise public awareness of the dumping problem. "A large number of people have indicated they want to help once the weather gets better."

"It's (on) a big roll," added fellow cyclist Mike Robinson of Kennewick, who's working with him.

The men were featured in a front page Herald story Dec. 16 about their efforts to curb illegal dumping south of Kennewick (http://tinyurl.com/bentondumping).

They frequently ride in the foothills around Highway 397, and said they've noticed a growing number of dumpsites since the highway was extended and vehicle access to the area improved. The area includes some of the last undeveloped land in Benton County.

Robinson and Potter have catalogued more than 25 dumpsites and created an inventory of junk that's two pages long.

Their list includes everything from car parts to TVs, furniture, tires and landscaping and construction debris.

Potter told the Herald last month that he and Robinson worried property owners might bar all people from the land if something didn't change. The foothills long have been used by cyclists, hikers and horseback riders.

Illegal dumping is a misdemeanor, punishable by fines and jail time. If the offender can't be found, it can fall to the property owners to clean up the mess and pay for disposal of the garbage.

That can mean a hefty bill. In December, one landowner estimated the junk dumped by others on his property would cost him $10,000 to $20,000 to clear away.

In recent weeks, the community has stepped in.

Two Les Schwab tire centers -- on West Clearwater Avenue in Kennewick and by the Columbia Center mall on Tapteal Drive in Richland -- have taken more than 200 tires combined, disposing of them at no cost.

Robinson said Windermere Real Estate/Tri-Cities also has agreed to help with disposal fees for some of the larger items.

Waste Management in Kennewick reportedly has taken some of the trash at no cost.

Russ Burtner, another Kennewick cyclist working on the cleanup, said he and his fellow riders are "grateful that property owners out there allow us to do our thing (and ride on their land)."

"Whatever we can do to keep being allowed to do our recreation thing -- we understand the need to do it," he told the Herald.

To help with the cleanup, contact Robinson at mrrobinson945@aol.com.

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