Patuxent River Cleanup

On the chilly first Saturday in November, Capital Off Road Enthusiasts joined forces with Chesapeake Paddlers Association (www.cpakayaker.com); Greater Baltimore Canoe Club (www.baltimorecanoeclub.org); Patuxent Greenways LLC; and the Patuxent Riverkeeper (www.paxriverkeeper.org) to once again attack an illegal dumpsite on the banks of the Patuxent River in Harwood MD. You may recall that we had worked with these same groups to clean here in April 2009.

CORE members participating included:

  • Paul Woscek with winch-equipped S10
  • Mike Vincenty with winch-equipped Rubicon
  • Josh Felts with haulin’ Full-size
  • Jeff Miller
  • Jay Nokkeo
  • Keith Holman
  • CORE also had guest Chris Biscoe attending with his JGC and very handy trailer.

This year we had some added benefits, including a grant from LL Bean (http://www.llbean.com/customerService/aboutLLBean/charitable_giving.html) through the American Canoe Association (www.americancanoe.org). Among other support, the sponsorship enabled us to hire someone to come in and cut the old car hulks into more manageable pieces. We also had the benefit of a skid loader donated by Greenskeeper Environmental LLC Enthusiasts (www.gkenv.com) which proved to be invaluable in loading and handling some large and heavy pieces.

Our primary objective was to remove as much of 4 remaining cars from the 2009 Pax River Trashout and we were successful. The cars were spread out so there were essentially three separate sites being worked. Thanks to the sponsorship and the efforts of the Paddlers, car-chunking was done in the week before we got there. The goal was to cut the cars into pieces that could be handled by the winches and loaded into the bed of a pickup truck by human power. They were able to chop two of the cars with a full day’s work. That left two that were relatively whole.

Paul positioned his winch-equipped S10 at one spot nearest where we spent the majority of last year’s efforts. This was the steeper hill with the remains of the one car we had started but not finished in 2009 and another which had gotten the benefit of the 12,000 lb winch got a workout and required the rigging of a block and tackle to redirect the winch line. The remainder of the body came up the hill and landed at the pavement by end of the day. Parts of the chassis plus the rear bumper and axle remain mostly buried amid the old bridge pilings. One man with a winch and a half-dozen feeding it at the bottom and unloading it at the top can move a lot of metal and it shows!

Mike’s Jeep was called into winch duty at the site with the other “chunked” car. Four or five were feeding it at the bottom plus hauling smaller pieces to the top by hand. This portion of the site also included a half-buried V8 engine block. You’ve probably heard the expression about boat anchor blocks and this one qualified. As Mike pulled the slack out of the winch line, the Jeep started to be pulled across the leaves rather than the engine giving. Strategic parking with the bumper braced on a tree won out and engine started the climb up the hill.

The third location was between the other two and had the one car which had not gotten the benefits of the pre-work chunking. Mother Nature had been working on this for a couple of decades and the metal was significantly weakened by rust. The skid loader was able to make short work of this one and get it up to the staging point where we were loading for the last leg to the pavement site.

The fourth team took the responsibility for moving from the top of the bank out to the pavement where it could be trucked away for recycling or other appropriate disposal. Josh’s full size Chevy and Chris’ JGC-towed trailer were terrific for this job. I saw one load going on to the trailer that included significant large pieces of three different cars plus the aforementioned engine block.

After all the hard work, Kara Brown provided an excellent repast of sandwiches and fixings (including the all-important pickle slices) courtesy of the Greater Baltimore Canoe Club to help restore the famished workers. Kara also deserves special recognition for gaining the support of LLBean in the form of a sponsorship.

The folks who made this all happen are deserving of our appreciation even though I haven’t named them individually here. Indulge me in a wee bit of editorializing here. The groups represented in this cooperative effort often find themselves representing opposing viewpoints, especially when our government invites public comment on a planned action.

This event helps to underscore our shared space and shared goals. The paddler on the scenic river is opposed to scarred landscapes along the way. The river keeper wants clean water without polluted runoff spoiling it. The recreational four wheeler wants beautiful scenery without fear of injury from someone’s trash. The landowner wants the unencumbered enjoyment of his land. Too often we find ourselves in a position of protecting our own use at the expense of others enjoyment of the land. None of us wish to see our planet used as a trash bin for discards. An illegal dumpsite is an eyesore for all of us. In this instance, we came together to accomplish something bigger than all of us and it’s sad commentary that it doesn’t happen more often.

Recently, there was an instance of a long-standing traditional path (which pre-dated the USFS ownership) being closed in the George Washington National Forest that had been regularly used by horseback riders, hikers and bicyclists. The outcry against this closure was predominantly from horseback riders, hikers and bicyclists. In recent years, similar trails had been closed to 4×4 recreationalists and the outcry came from 4×4 recreationalists. Perhaps, by working together when the first long-standing traditional paths which pre-dated USFS ownership were being closed we might have been able to prevent the more recent closures.

I think we need to come together and realize that “Earth, It’s Our Favorite Place to Ride” places the burden of watching out for each other on all of us, to the exclusion of “I don’t want your recreation here because only my recreation counts.”

Trail report written by Keith Holman. Pictures courtesy of Keith Holman, Paul Woscek, and Mike Vincenty.

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