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With garbage galore, officials organize to clean up Chitina dipnetting site

Craig Medred
From broken dipnets to plastic water bottles and the ubiquitous beer and soda cans of roadside Alaska, litter abounds in the Chitina area where Alaska dipnetters gather. cc via flickr

Picking up the refuse left behind by the thousands who flock to the Chitina area of eastern Alaska to pull salmon from the Copper River with nets is a dirty business, but officials with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management say they're willing to organize efforts to try to get 'er done.

From abandoned fish wheels to broken dipnets, from plastic water bottles to the ubiquitous beer and soda cans of roadside Alaska, litter abounds in the Chitina area, said Marnie Graham, a public affairs specialist at the BLM field office in Glennallen, about 150 miles east of Anchorage. Anyone who visits the Chitina area will see the problem immediately.

Taking note of this obvious mess around the McCarthy Road entrance to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, the country's largest national park, Graham said the BLM is organizing an Aug. 3 clean up. BLM and the Park Service are sister agencies within the Department of the Interior.

"Many people come to this area from parts of Alaska where trash service is readily available," Graham said Thursday by email. "They may be unaware that routine trash service is problematic for this area, requires travel over a great distance, and that a 'pack it in, pack it out' etiquette is required to keep it clean and sustainable."

In other words, the Chitina area seems to have a problem with people who think others will pick up after them. Some people may think the mess is so bad a little more hardly matters.

"The trash and debris problem has gone beyond what any one person can do by themselves to address it, Graham said.  She's hoping a gang effort led by the BLM and joined by volunteers from other agencies, organizations and the public can do something about it.

The BLM is partnering on the National Public Lands Day clean-up with the Wrangell-St. Elias park; the Glennallen-based regional Native corporation, Ahtna Inc.; Chitina Corporation, the Native Village of Chitina, the Alaska departments of Fish and Game and Natural Resources; Copper River Basin Sanitation; Copper Country Alliance; the Copper River Watershed Project; the Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, and the Chitina Hotel.

Adding to the volunteers from those organizations, Graham hopes a number of private citizens turn out to try to give back to an area that helps feed so many Alaskans with salmon free-of-charge from the bounty of the Copper River.

To encourage volunteers, the Park Service will be giving free T-shirts and water bottles to the first 100 people who register to help clean up. And the BLM will provide a free lunch.

Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com 

Those who need to know more can call Graham at 907-822-7325.