Cedar City mother turns disgust into action
Carin Miller likes to talk trash.
The Cedar City mother of four is president of Clean Our Canyons, a nonprofit volunteer organization she started to raise awareness about people using southwestern Utah canyons and desert as dumping grounds.
Besides speaking to community groups and schools about the problem, she gets help from public works officials in Iron County and Cedar City and from employees of the Bureau of Land Management to raise awareness - and to help clean up the mess.
"If you can think it, we've cleaned it up," said Miller, who tries to get out at least twice a month to tear into dump sites in Iron and Washington counties.
Since April 2006, Miller and her volunteers have filled 60-gallon trash bags and a truck, when available, with discarded items ranging from underwear hanging in trees to construction debris - and an industrial washing machine filled with clothes and oil.
That's not all. Bed springs, refrigerators and Barcaloungers also are common items people want to discard without going to a landfill.
Rick Holman, Cedar City's director of public works, has met with Miller about coordinating a pickup effort.
"If they [the BLM and Iron County] are willing to make the effort and [be] aggressive about doing it, we'd like to help where we can," he said.
He stressed the importance of the group's education efforts in raising awareness.
Ironically, a trip to the landfill is usually the easiest solution. It's free for a load of household trash and typically not as difficult to get to as an illegal dumping site.
Miller said she got the idea for starting Clean Our Canyons when hiking in an area up Cedar Canyon and coming upon a pile of trash at some waterfalls.
"I went back later and saw the same stuff there," she said. "I knew I had to do something."
Miller said her education efforts are predicated on changing the perception of dumping.
"It's not about telling people [that] it is something bad to do," she said. "It's [telling them] about what it does to the environment."
To recruit volunteers, Miller said she visits and speaks to community groups and schools that treat troubled youths.
"At first they complain about doing it," she said of the students. "But after I talk to them and explain what it [dumping] does to the environment, then they're 99 percent ready to go."
On a trip Thursday to a site on BLM land west of Bloomington in Washington County, Miller's troops included eight students from the Red Rock Canyon School, which operates a St. George rehabilitation program.
Barry Moore, the school's transition-program director - he also was on hand for the cleanup - said the event gave students an opportunity for a service project plus a chance to experience the surrounding desert landscape.
Last week's outing was the second time students from the school have helped Miller.
"This is an alien environment for a lot of our students who come from out of state," Moore said, speaking of the redrock country. "She [Miller] provides them an opportunity to help the community, and get kids out into the desert."
While handing out the large orange bags and latex gloves, Miller gives students instructions on what to pick up and what to leave. Broken glass, needles or hazardous chemicals, like pesticides or paint, are items to be left alone.
"Go for the big, visual pieces - not things like cigarette butts," she told the teens, whom she divided into two-member teams. "Anything that could hurt you or are natural or biodegradable, like a carcass, just leave."
Celina Prim, a student from Sacramento, said it was terrible that people would litter the landscape.
"I just can't understand it," she said.
Jessica Ball - a friend of Miller's, who also participated in Thursday's effort while carrying one of Miller's children on her back - said she admires what Miller is doing.
"I . . . want to be supportive," said Ball as she walked among the broken bottles, spent shotgun shells, bullet-riddled propane tanks, twisted bedsprings and the burned-out hulk of a car.
"I never knew how bad the problem was until I started coming out with her."
At the end of the outing, the students had filled 29 of the 60-gallon bags. Miller had told the group that the team filling the most bags would win a prize.
"When it was over and [Moore] asked who won, they answered, 'We all did!' " said Miller. "That's what it is about. They worked together as one team. They had a blast."
02-21-2007 08:51 AM
That's an awesome idea. for free labor using the teens
Originally Posted by Jaxx
And teaching teens at the same time not to mess up the environment!
I'll never understand the idiots who think it is OK to litter. It is not only ugly, but costly to clean up. Bad enough to litter public highways, but unthinkable to do it in our precious parks and scenic lands. I remember my first visit to Yellowstone, seeing cans and other junk in the beautiful Morning Glory pool. It's hard to clean without damaging the spring itself, but they have learned to do it. Still, it is all so unnecessary.
Well, I'm glad someone is doing something about it!! Here's a link to a trashy experience I had up Cedar Canyon:
My Safety is DeathCricket's Responsibility.