“It’s disheartening,’ More people dumping litter at Richland park

RICHLAND, Wash. — There are 62 parks in the City of Richland.

“I can’t be everywhere at once,” Matthew Navarro said.

That’s dozens of acres Ranger Matthew Navarro with the city has to patrol.

But there’s one park in particular, where Navarro gets some help.

“Become my little hero,” Navarro smiled.

Jim Owen patrols the paths along the riverbanks of the Columbia River, picking up liter left behind by others. The main area he looks after is Wye Park and Bushwacker Road.

He started years ago after his brother died.

“He used to take pictures of the deer and birds and stuff, and I came out into Bateman Island and found an abandoned homeless camp and thought, no we need to clean this up,” Owen said.

When Jim was just starting out on his cleanup mission, he wasn’t sure where he should put all the garbage.

“Hauled all the garbage out and then went, ‘now what?'” he laughed.

So, he reached out to Richland Parks and Recreation. He worked closely with the previous ranger, then met Matt, when he took over the position.

“He just lets me know whenever he’s got a bundle,” Navarro said.

It’s a problem that’s only getting worse.

Navarro said the liter is coming from people who illegally camp in the area and others, who are just careless.

Navarro said he often patrols the area and will watch people, firsthand, tossing garbage out the window.

“It’s a little disheartening to see people trash it and leave litter behind, but the good news is there’s a couple groups that have been volunteering and going around the Richland area picking up trash,” he said.

Navarro and KAPP KVEW’s Madeleine Hagen drove along Bushwacker Road, near Wye Park and the boat launch.

Luckily, there wasn’t a ton of trash, thanks to a recent clean up, but they did find a pile consisting of an old table, shades and other household debris. In addition to that, the duo saw piles of discarded lawn materials.

With rivers close by, Navarro said it’s a concern for wildlife.

“The small particles of plastic get inside animals, that’s a way for them to die off, so we do our best to remove all the plastic in the area,” he said.

If not to save wildlife, people shouldn’t liter, to prevent getting a fine.

“You know, the 50 dollars it takes them to go over to the dump can easily double triple and quadruple,” Navarro said fines can range from $250 to over $1000.

The land is also owned by the US Army Corps of Engineers, who can fine people who liter.

Jim also encourages people to take part in keeping parks clean, by picking up trash or purchasing trash pickers like his.

“Just a couple of pounds, and you don’t have to pick up everything,” he said.

And remember the age-old saying:

“Pack it in, pack it out.”

If you’d like to volunteer to help clean up Richland parks and natural areas, you can contact Matthew Navarro at mnavarro@ci.richland.wa.us or by calling the city.

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