Beer bottles, old tires and even some hypodermic needles litter the east bank of the Carson River at Silver Saddle Ranch, hampering restoration efforts and discouraging people from visiting the area.
To stem that tide, Bureau of Land Management officials will prohibit vehicle traffic, limiting access to hikers, bikers and horseback riders.
"This is a positive thing and I think we'll get the majority of the people behind us," said Mike Bailey, BLM ranger and ranch manager. "People who come to enjoy the river bank don't want to be stepping on broken glass and dodging vehicles."
Elayne Briggs, BLM associate field manager, said public support is pivotal to the effort.
"People who like to come here are discouraged from doing so and we have to clean up the area every year. We shouldn't have to do that," she said. "This is primarily an education and enforcement problem. We only have one ranger, plus the Carson City sheriff's deputies and we need the public's help, to keep this area open."
For those who can see past the oil spots in the sand, the corridor is a bucolic spot. Cottonwoods rustle softly in a fall breeze and the cry of a bird echoes down the canyon as the river slowly wends its way toward the Carson Sink east of Fallon.
Bailey said the dumping problem was even worse in a series of small canyons that open into the river area. Roads wind through some of those canyons, just out of sight of the main thoroughfare, making them readily available to vehicles.
"The canyons were covered with trash, so we cleaned them up, barring access to those roads to keep the problem from recurring," Bailey said. "When we did that, illegal dumping at the river increased. All of the impacts of vehicle traffic have been negative and now, there are a series of dump sites along the river."
The dumping problem has mushroomed, with people leaving their trash along any hillside accessible by vehicle. BLM spokesman Terry Knight said people come to the area to change their oil, leaving contamination in the soil and driving trucks into the river just to wash them.
Immediate vehicle access to the river's fragile riparian zone was restricted prior to this effort. Large boulders were strung across roads leading directly to the river's edge, but people have either moved the boulders to one side or driven around them, damaging plant life.
The BLM acquired the ranch in 1997 in a land exchange with Perma-Bilt Homes and the American Land Conservancy. The BLM has worked with Carson City parks staff to form a plan to keep the ranch open for fishermen, walkers, bikers, horseback riders, bird watchers and off-road vehicles.
The proposal includes a large urban park and calls for development of parking lots, picnic areas and trails into the Pine Nut Mountains, the Carson River, the Prison Hill Recreation Area and other nearby public lands.
The work, which includes ripping roads and creating a 30-space dirt parking lot on the area's south end, should be completed some time next week.