Cleaning up their act

Volunteers pitch in, remove trash from national forest access at Hayden Creek

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Brian Bunch saws down the stump of a tree which was used for shooting practice in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. Bunch gathered volunteers from the community Saturday morning to clean up parts of the forest which have been abused by park goers.

Outdoorsmen are taking back the Hayden Creek access to the Idaho Panhandle National Forests.

Following IPNF officials' threat to close the access due to relentless littering and tree destruction, do-gooders have swiftly organized to spruce the place up.

"We are almost overwhelmed with volunteers at this point," said Jason Kirchner, IPNF spokesman.

"In fact, we're trying to encourage them to string out some of their efforts. That way, they're not cleaning after a cleanup."

The Silver Lake Young Marines cobbled a cleanup effort on Thursday at the Hayden Creek shooting pit, the ground zero of waste like shot-up appliances.

The 15 local youth and handful of parents stuffed roughly 40 bags of garbage after several hours, said Bob Balser, quarter master with the group.

"It we were to clean the entire place, we would probably have had another 40 bags," Balser said.

Merwin's Repair and Towing provided a truck and driver to help haul the load, he added. The company even offered a winch to drag out the remains of an ancient car body.

"The areas we worked are quite clean," Balser said, adding that several teenagers with hand rakes couldn't tackle the wide spanned mess in a day. "Where there was a pile of junk we obliterated it."

Balser, who lives in Rathdrum, said many members of the Young Marines are learning to shoot and don't want to see the shooting pit closed to the public.

Also, the group is focused on individuals cleaning up after themselves, he said.

"Keep a clean place, don't let your room look like there's a minor explosion in it," Balser said.

Following the local boys' efforts, insurance agent Brian Bunch rallied friends and family to improve a nearby site on Saturday.

Since Bunch was a boy, he said, his family has used the dirt berms off Road 437 for shooting practice and to sight their weapons before hunting.

And he has always noticed garbage there, the Athol man added.

"It's gotten worse," he said. "People shoot more guns now, they have more ammunition. It's amazing how much ammo is shot off, and not just target practice. People love to shoot."

His focus on Saturday was cleaning up trees shot up near the Hells Canyon trailhead, he said.

"The Young Marines already helped by taking out a lot of trash, that's why it's do-able," Bunch said of his own efforts.

He considers the Hayden Creek access as valuable country, he said, and its potential closure has him worried.

"It would impact me a lot, because it would be a very negative thing for our area," he said. "It's a very valuable asset. There are probably hundreds of vehicles that go through there a day."

Kirchner said IPNF can't express enough gratitude for the public's positive response.

If cleanups continue at this rate, he added, IPNF won't have to close the access.

"Essentially what we've asked for is to get the place cleaned up and to keep it clean," he said. "If they can make that happen, we're ecstatic."

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