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Walking the WAG: Let’s keep the trail clean and stop illegal dumping by litterbugs

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NYS DEC officials are stepping up enforcement efforts

What can be done to protect WAG trail areas?

By Andrew Harris, photo by Mel Hunt

The vast majority of the WAG Trail is very clean and the occasional beer can or granola bar wrapper might be founds. A few locations along the way are prone to an almost constant flow of trash being dumped from Back River Road.

Some of the most litterbug infested areas have tires, trash, deer carcasses, and even the occasional washing machine. Whole bags of trash are common, fast food litter is unbitquitous. When you come upon these place on the WAG, it will make you angry. The “bugs” use the steep bank between the Back River Road and the river itself as an easy way to throw away big items. They just roll down the hill, out of sight, out of mind for the litter bug.

Kelly Morehouse was out on the trail during the early spring we’ve enjoyed and found a small environmental disaster just off the trail. She had this to say and supplied a picture of the mess:

“Folks make a regular habit of throwing their trash, including rotting carcasses in boxes, over the bank from the main road. All of which lands on the banks of the trail. I am curious if they are aware of the view it creates. Unfortunately there is always a fresh supply on each walk.”

Longtime WAG trail lover, volunteer, and advocate Pat Childs echoed the sentiment but emphasized the frustration:

“This isn’t a new problem and it has been going on for years. During deer season we see loads of carcasses and hides. Tires have always seemed to appear on the trail. We’ve all called the police and even arrested a few people who are kind enough to leave evidence.”

The problem is, and has been, on the list of problems to address. Trying to stop people from dumping trash on an isolated road in Allegany County is nearly impossible. But times are changing and DEC Forest Ranger Justin Thaine indicated that when it comes to protecting the WAG and holding litterbugs accountable, technology is on the table.

“It is frustrating to have a small minority be so disrespectful and impact those of us who really love the WAG. We have been successful in prosecuting several individuals but hope to step up enforcement using multiple methods,” warned Thaine.

While video surveillence isn’t currently in place, our conversations with law enforcement indicate that all tools are being considered. Don’t be surprised to hear about the use of video cameras, drone patrols, and other means of fighting back against this crime.

The biggest tool that is available to anyone who enjoys the trail, is a “see something, say something” approach. Call the NYS DEC and report any dumping, especially if the material presents a danger to the public or could bring clues that lead to prosecution.

 The fine range if found guilty of the unlawful disposal of solid waste is $1,500 (minimum) to $15,000. That doesn’t include other applicable fines and citiations that accompany most dumping crimes.

WAG lovers: You can help in a couple ways. First, don’t be afraid to report recent dumping to the NYS DEC. Document what you can and don’t attempt to clean up large scale dumping as the contents could be dangerous. Of course if you can pick up simple random trash, the WAG and all who enjoy her would appreciate that!!

REPORT DUMPING ON THE WAG TRAIL, OR ANYWHERE IN ALLEGANY COUNTY OR NYS, TO DEC FOREST RANGERS:

DEC dispatch number, which also covers ECOs 1-877-457-5680

https://dec.ny.gov/places/genesee-river-wildlife-management-area

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