Visitors overload town, private dumpsters
Where there are tourists, there will be garbage. And if they don’t take it home with them, it ends up somewhere.
Too often, “somewhere” is a private dumpster that may seem convenient on the way out of the valley, a local business owner told the Winthrop Town Council last week. Or it could be a town-owned garbage receptacle intended for light trash, not campers’ accumulated garbage.
Jacob Young, co-owner of the Old Schoolhouse Brewery in Winthrop told the council in a letter that the pub’s industrial-size dumpster has been increasingly used for garbage disposal by visitors. Other business owners have the same problem, Young said. He asked the town to consider providing more facilities to handle tourists’ waste.
Council members did not dismiss the problem, but said it is not the town’s responsibility to solve it.
“As the one who pays the bill for dumpster services for the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, I see firsthand as the problem has gone from bad to horrible,” Young said. “My example is simply one among many others I have heard from my fellow business owners.”
Young said that last summer the pub paid for three extra dumpster pickups a week to handle the garbage overflow because people left trash and even building materials in the dumpster.
“When dumpsters overflow, it not only looks horrible and smells bad, but it attracts animals and disease,” he said.
Earlier this year, Young said, WasteWise, the valley’s waste and recycling collection service, provided upgraded dumpsters that can be secured with a padlock. Old Schoolhouse Brewery’s dumpster is locked now, Young said. If his and other private dumpsters in town are locked, Young said, tourists will still look for a place to leave their refuse.
“I implore the city to do the right thing and pay for the basic ability for campers and those who recreate to dispose of waste in a responsible manner,” Young said in the letter. “It is safe to say they will dispose of it one way or another, and it would be far better to take control and offer this basic service …”
Young suggested that the town consider moving dumpsters at the Winthrop Barn outside their currently gated enclosure, and perhaps replacing them with larger units, as a drop-off point for visitors’ garbage.
In response, Winthrop Public Works Superintendent Jeff Sarvis said in a memo to the mayor and Town Council that it’s not quite that simple — and that town already has a substantial investment in garbage collection.
The town has more than 18 50-gallon garbage cans around town, Sarvis said, and they are emptied at least once daily. The town’s cost for disposing of that garbage is about $11,000 a year, Sarvis said, exclusive of labor and other costs. The town pays rental fees for the dumpsters to WasteWise, he said.
“If a dumpster were placed for visitors’ use, how would you determine illegal vs. legal dumping?” Sarvis said in the memo. Sarvis also said he’s aware that some local residents, including people living outside the town, use the town’s garbage receptacles for to dispose of their personal trash.
The town’s dumpsters at the Barn had been put in an enclosure because of problems with unauthorized dumping in the past.
Sarvis noted that the town spends thousands of dollars each year to provide and maintain public restrooms at four sites.
Young acknowledged that the town provides garbage receptacles, but said that a 50-gallon can doesn’t accommodate much garbage compared to what people are dumping in town — particularly people who are doing “open camping” in the valley.
Forest Service problem?
Council member Bill McAdow suggested that the town approach the U.S. Forest Service about how to provide better garbage collection. “It’s their dispersed campers,” he said. Providing public dumpsters for campers’ garbage would “turn [the town] into the Winthrop transfer station,” McAdow said.
Council member Ben Nelson agreed that town should talk to the Forest Service as “it seems to be their responsibility.”
Nelson said that a coalition of local nonprofits — including the Methow Valley Trails Collaborative that he chairs — has provided a garbage collection system in the Mazama area. Nelson said he would put the garbage collection question on the collaborative’s next meeting agenda.
Mayor Sally Ranzau pointed out that the Forest Service has had its own problems with overflow garbage at trailheads and campgrounds, especially last summer when campers swarmed into the valley. She said she would contact local Forest Service representatives.
The mayor, citing the “leave no trace” ethic of backpackers, had another suggestion for tourists’ garbage: “Why don’t they just take it home?”