The Kennewick cyclists who made it their mission to clean up garbage dumped in the hills around Highway 397 -- and to curb the practice of illegal dumping in the community -- are being recognized by the state for their efforts.
The state Department of Ecology is giving its Environmental Excellence Award to Mike Robinson, Al Potter and Russ Burtner. Leaders from several local businesses that helped with the project also are receiving the state honor, and so is a landowner who’s helped nab illegal dumpers on his property.
The awards are to be presented during the Kennewick City Council meeting tonight. The session is 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 210 W. Sixth Ave.
“It’s refreshing and impressive to see what people can do once they put their minds to it. Mike, Al and Russ didn’t wait for government to fix the problem; instead they rolled up their sleeves and got to work,” said Tom Tebb, Ecology’s Central Region director, in a news release about the awards.
Robinson told the Herald it was a true group effort. “We now have a template for how to take control of the situation and try to keep it under control -- that’s the great accomplishment,” he said.
Robinson, Potter and Burtner, who ride in the hills around the highway, began to notice a growing amount of trash piling up -- everything from water bottles, scraps of paper and other litter, to furniture, television sets, tires and landscaping and construction debris.
They mobilized volunteers and worked on the issue with local officials, including from the Benton County sheriff’s and prosecutor’s offices and the Benton-Franklin Health District. The Herald has chronicled their efforts from the start, beginning with a front-page story in December.
Since then, more than 20 tons of garbage has been cleared away. Multiple people also have been cited for illegal dumping.
Rick Dawson, supervisor of the health district’s land use, sewage and water section, said in the release that curbing illegal dumping is a continual challenge. “Volunteers have been the key to our success and hopefully this will spur greater civic action to keep our communities clean and accessible for the recreation we all enjoy,” he said in the release.
The health district and Ecology’s Waste 2 Resources Program made the award nominations, the news release said.
Here’s the complete list of recipients: Robinson, Potter and Burtner; landowner Tim Goodman; Les Schwab Tire Stores - Andy Walker/Clearwater; Les Schwab Tire Stores - Rick Giddings/Columbia Center; Windermere Real Estate - Dave Retter; Waste Management - Jeff Wheatle; Help U Move - Russ Pogue; Flynn, Merriman & McKennon Law Firm- Jay Flynn; and JMS Inspections - James Sexton.