Carson River cleanup rife with risk and reward |

Carson River cleanup rife with risk and reward

Andrew Pridgen
Appeal Staff Writer

A vagrant approached Carson City Sheriff’s Deputy Tom Crawford.

The transient man, clad only in dark jean shorts, dripping dangerously past his waist, took a puff off a half-lit cigarette and tossed it into the sagebrush near the bank of the Carson River.

Crawford kindly explained to the gentleman that he was standing on private lands. In spite of the man’s claim to know “all there is” about the area surrounding the Prison Hill Recreation area – evidenced, he gestured, by the pair of rusty railroad spikes he was carrying as archeological finds – the man’s stewardship of the land was not what exactly what the deputy sought.

“This isn’t BLM land – in fact, it’s private,” Crawford said. “If the landowner complains you’re staying here – that could lead to an arrest, with jail time.”

The man adjusted his sunglasses and purposefully picked up a hamburger wrapper within close view of the deputy. Without pause, he took two steps and slunk back into the brush – presumably the site of his makeshift camp.

Crawford, walking further along a fire road, came upon a recently vacated camp site.

Fast food drink cups, empty boxes of shotgun shells, cardboard boxes of domestic beer and even a makeshift latrine (a toilet seat balanced over an empty paint bucket), was the sample decor near the riverbank.

“Look, these people aren’t camping, they’re squatting,” Crawford said. “If they could afford to pay rent and keep the lights on – they’d be living in town like everyone else.”

Even though most of the land off Deer Run Road abutting the Carson River is privately held, sheriff’s deputies regularly sweep through the sheer rock faces and cut trail (former and future home of the V&T Railway) for vagabonds, teenage partiers and the occasional inebriated marksman.

Even though arrests are infrequent, the collateral left behind is prevalent.

Broken beer bottles, burned-out cars, gutted trailers, and fields of orange, green, blue and yellow shellcasings mar the Carson City riverfront.

“You know what we’ve seen more of is graffiti,” said Bureau of Land Management spokesman Mark Struble, while passing a small cluster of rocks spray painted with slurs and alleged Carson gang ethos Friday morning, “You gotta wonder – what’s the point of spray painting a rock in the middle of nowhere?”

Struble, joined by Kiwanian Ron Bowman and a pair of deputies, assessed the work that would be done for the BLM/Kiwanis sponsored river cleanup.

The event, all-day Saturday will be the local answer to the 14th annual National Public Lands Day.

“(Kiwanis) has been doing the cleanup in conjunction with the national event since the 1990s,” Struble said. “We’re probably going to clean up, not counting abandoned cars, about 90 to 100 cubic yards of garbage. My goal is to get to the point where one day we don’t have to do this.”

Kiwanis organizer Bowman inspected a derelict car as sheriff’s deputies attempted to read a VIN number. The car had been previously torched and was riddled with bullet holes.

“Goodnight,” he said. “It looks like Iraq out here. You’d think with the city’s free shooting range just over the hill, there’d be less of this.

“Then again, it seems like people have a thing for bringing out a six pack and shooting their guns.”

Besides 40 Kiwanians, volunteers for the day of cleaning are slated to include local Boy Scout troops, local JROTC and Friends of Silver Saddle Ranch.

The event can also pose risk.

“We tell the kids out here especially to be careful,” Struble said. “We emphasize to get an adult if they see anything suspicious. Sure enough, a few years ago, a girl from ROTC stuck herself with a needle.

“It turned out to be baked in the sun and there was nothing on it – but you have to be careful out here.”

Erstwhile home of makeshift meth labs and seemingly a spawning ground for the unsavory, those scouting the cleanup site Friday were quick to note the area has come along in the last several years.

“This is a party spot, a homeless spot, a drug spot and a dumping spot,” Crawford said. “But believe it or not, it’s a better spot than it used to be.”

• Contact staff writer Andrew Pridgen at or 881-1219.

If you go

What: Cleanup along the banks of the Carson River and at BLM’s Silver Saddle Ranch and Prison Hill Recreation Area.

When: 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday

Where: Meet at the BLM-Carson City Field Office’s west parking lot, 5665 Morgan Mill Road at Deer Run Road

How to sign up: Groups are asked to register in advance with BLM Public Affairs Officer Mark Struble at 885-6107

What else: Cleanup officials suggest everyone wear long pants, heavy shoes or boots (no sandals), bring a hat and sunglasses to protect your eyes and bring heavy gloves to protect hands from broken glass, metal and thorns.

FAST FACTS: • A cubic yard fills approximately half a Dumpster.

• The clean-up usually yields between 100-200 cubic yards

• Clean-up officials estimate this year’s haul will be slightly less than 100 yards as trash dumping along the Carson River has decreased