The abuse of Cedar Mountain’s landscape – mainly litter and graffiti – reported by a Cody woman to a federal agency resulted in a cleanup project the morning of June 22.
“It made me angry and upset when I saw the damage and disrespect,” Sara Dabel-Williams said. “It’s a bummer to see that happen.”
Because of her call to the Cody office of the BLM, a crew of about 20 people, ranging in age from 3 to mid-70s, showed up for the cleanup. In four hours they amassed an impressive pile of litter, according to a report from Rick Tryder, BLM outdoor recreation planner, who organized the work day.
“We went to the dump (June 24) with over 600 pounds of trash, nails, pallets, glass, etc.,” he said. “I am pretty sure we cleaned out and dispersed about 20 fire rings, too.”
Dabel-Williams had contacted Tryder after hiking on Cedar with her 6-year-old daughter Jordyn. She uses the mountain for an outdoor escape that’s close to town.
“We come here to get away,” she said, only to encounter litter and graffiti, describing the latter as “the worst part.”
Some of the graffiti looks like tags or identification – “NSG” being the most common – while some of it is offensive. None of it can be removed easily, even by power washing, Tryder said. A federal colleague on the cleanup, Cordell Perkins, lands branch supervisor with the Bureau of Reclamation in Casper, said he might be able to procure a sandblaster for removing the spray-painted vandalism.
“I’d love to figure out who did it and have them clean it up,” Tryder said of the graffiti. “We’ll keep a better eye on it.”
Perkins participated because BuRec shares oversight of Cedar with BLM. Together, the agencies hope to install a kiosk with information about the mixture of public-private land ownership along with educational information and an explanation of the Leave No Trace policy for daytime and overnight visitors. Tryder explained that “dispersed camping” is allowed on Cedar, and he expects more campers with the temporary closure of the Fishing Bridge site on the east side of Yellowstone National Park.
“We try to avoid over-signing,” Tryder said, but he might include more information on Cedar for the dispersed campers, “Especially out-of-staters.” There also might be a visitor registration component at the kiosk.
While the crew couldn’t tackle the graffiti, they did attack the fire pits that contained large quantities of nails, probably from burning pallets. Workers using circular magnets attached to metal rods extracted hundreds of thousands of nails from the ashes, Tryder estimated.
Broken glass, which covered many sites, provided another challenge. Workers wearing gloves picked up the bigger pieces as others shoveled and raked the shards into piles and separated them from the dirt using kitchen sieves. Dabel-Williams led the sifting brigade.
Disgusted by all the vandalism, volunteer Ernie McFarland said, “I raised a lot of hell as a kid, but I never remember doing this abuse of a natural habitat. I like to hike here.”
Dabel-Williams said she wasn’t destructive in her time at Cody High School.
“I never burnt pallets or spray-painted rocks,” she said. “I hope the cleanup will help deter the people who did it.”
Her mother, Julie Allen, said a recent visit to Cedar showed her “how terrible it looked. And here we all are helping” to clean up the mountain. She was accompanied by Jordyn, her granddaughter and Sara’s daughter, while the Perkins family scoured other areas.
“It was great that Cordell (Perkins) was able to come up with his family and work on cleanup,” Tryder said.
The family comprised Melissa and Cordell Perkins and their five children: Grace 10, Addie, 9, Presli, 8, Cordell, 6, and Andee, 3. Although they alternated between play and work, they did more than their share of retrieving litter, often finding it in places others hadn’t noticed.
Asked about rewards for his hard workers, Cordell the elder mentioned pizza, adding, “There might be some ice cream involved as well.” Melissa had another idea.
“I heard there was a quilt store in Cody,” she said.
The reward for Dabel-Williams, she said simply, was to “clean up the mountain so everyone can enjoy it.”