Among the volunteers from Patagonia, Inc. (Ventura) and Los Padres ForestWatch (Ojai) were Mountain Community residents Tyler Geike of Piñon Pines, Tommy Hastings of Lake of the Woods, Jeff and Tammy Zimmerman of Neenach, John Burnham of Frazier Park and Kim Coakley of the Pine Mountain community. [photo by Jeff Zimmerman]
By Jeff Zimmerman
Twenty volunteers met on December 5 in sub-freezing temperatures at 9 a.m. in Frazier Park to carpool to an abandoned marijuana farm on Frazier Mountain. On a very steep hillside under the disguise of piñon, juniper, majestic pines and sage lay an illegal campsite and heaps of trash, including long runs of black plastic water pipe, pesticides and power tool fuel, all left by marijuana growers.
The hillside had been terraced for hundreds of marijuana plants at two growing sites. Water storage basins lined with plastic had been dug deep into the hillside. Fertilizers and pesticide sprayers were left behind. The site was a health hazard to forest patrons and wildlife, of special peril to bear and California condor. It was discovered by Frazier Park residents this summer.
At about the same time, over 18,000 plants were removed at three other grow sites from the Los Padres National Forest by Kern County Sheriff’s Deputies.
The Mountain Enterprise asked Los Padres ForestWatch to help with the cleanup, and put out a call for community volunteers to help support the effort. Volunteers from the Los Padres ForestWatch Group, Patagonia, Inc. and workers from the Mountain Communities (including Tyler Geike of Piñon Pines, Tommy Hastings of Lake of the Woods, Jeff and Tammy Zimmerman of Neenach, John Burnham of Frazier Park and Kim Coakley of the Pine Mountain community) came out with pickup trucks and enthusiastic attitudes to clean up the mess.
As part of its community relations program, Patagonia allows employees from its Ventura store to use workday time for cleanup efforts. The company sent 10 employees to help. We were told that the company believes giving one percent of its profits to such efforts will help to restore nature and encourage other companies to do the same. They also provide donations to Los Padres ForestWatch and other nonprofit groups for clean-up and restoration projects in the forest. Los Padres ForestWatch (LPFW) is a non-profit group that is not affiliated with USDA Forest Service. The USFS said it did not have the funds and personnel to pick up the trash at this site.
Volunteers worked in small groups at specific areas on specific tasks pre-planned by LPFW Director of Outdoor Programs Craig Carey. Cleanup efforts were complete by 2:30 p.m. Loads of trash were removed with the assistance of the Frazier Park Public Utility District (FPPUD) pick-up truck and a 4×4 quad that the water district provided to haul out debris.
Top, extensive amounts of plastic pipe were used to irrigate plants at two different sites. Above, Tommy Hastings and another volunteer in a wash, picking up debris. Power tool fuels are dragged by bears into ravines and can get into the human water supply.
Above, Craig Carey picked up trash from ravines, telling about the danger to wildlife and the water supply from the substances found there.
Left, volunteers carpooled part of the way, then hiked into the site of the illegal marijuana farm that was using water from a municipal water supply storage tank.
Craig R. Carey, volunteer coordinator for Los Padres ForestWatch (LPFW), had already scouted the area and organized the tasks so that 20 people could get the job done in 5 hours. Microtrash kills California condor chicks.
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This is part of the December 13, 2013 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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