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MILLVILLE - More than 250 volunteers spread out in wildlife management areas in Cumberland County during the 26th annual Cumberland County Trash Hunt.
The event is sponsored by the Cumberland County Improvement Authority.
The state lands are usually used for hunting, fishing, hiking and other outdoor recreational activities. Unfortunately, some people use them as dump sites.
These wildlife management areas practice a bring-in and take-out policy for trash, so it should be a pristine environment, but some people leave their trash behind and others visit the areas with the sole purpose of dumping loads of trash. But thanks to the efforts of many community clubs, tons of trash was removed Saturday, bringing back the natural beauty of the nature areas.
Volunteers bagged up the usual culprits of plastic and glass bottles, cans and paper trash. Other volunteers used their pickup trucks to haul out mattresses, toilets, water heaters, propane tanks and too many tires.
Bill Hall of Port Elizabeth stayed busy on a tractor helping volunteers unload the debris into trash bins at Menantico Gun Club. He said that although dumping is still occurring too often, he has noticed a decline in the amount of trash gathered during the trash hunt in the past couple years.
Anthony Riviera, director of Recycling, Clean Communities and Enforcement at the CCIA, attributes the decline to the efforts made during the annual trash hunt, an increase in patrols and partnerships between the CCIA and NJ Fish and Wildlife and the Mosquito Control Commission. Both agencies partner with the CCIA to remove trash and tires from the wildlife management areas throughout the year.
Last year the trash hunt collected 14.5 tons of trash and almost 7 tons of tires, said Riviera.
Many clubs volunteer annually for the trash hunt. Some of the groups that participated Saturday included the Boys Scouts, Menantico Gun Club, Good Sports Gunning Club, East Creek Gun Club, the Tri County Sportsmen Motorcycle Club and Competition Dirt Riders club.
“We love the woods and hate the trash,” said Steve Bostrom of Vineland,who volunteered with the Competition Dirt Riders to clean areas of the Edward G. Bevan Fish and Wildlife Management Area. He remembers pulling a boat from the woods one year and another year when he returned back to his starting point only to find a freshly dumped pile of trash.
“We used these woods for 20 years. It’s our duty to help,” said Eldin Polhamus, president of the Tri County Sportsmen Motorcycle Club. The club used to host a two-day AMA event on the state land until regulations recently changed.
Volunteers ranged in age from toddlers to seniors, and everyone was eager to do their part. “Every piece counts because you are helping the environment,” said Sienna Nanni, 8, of Vineland, as she picked up a small piece of trash from the woods line on Port Elizabeth/Cumberland Road.
Volunteers worked across the county. Some of the areas they cleaned included the Peaslee WMA, Menantico Ponds, Cedarville Ponds and the Edward G. Bevan WMA.