by Matt Konkle
Quadratec Channel Editor
The trash emerged from the Pennsylvania earth ragged and dirty, like some sort of anti-treasure that nobody asked for or wanted. One piece after another. Plastic, metal, carpet, rubber, you name it. Old aluminum cans with strange names like Dr. Sweet, or tires from long-forgotten stores such as Montgomery Ward. There was a broken television, dolls, several basketballs, a child’s old yellow water gun, rollerblades that no longer rolled, mops that no longer mopped and a rusted out car exhaust.
All things that once upon a time probably meant a great deal to someone. Or a few someones. But then were tossed into the woods the same way a hot dog wrapper is casually discarded on a boardwalk. Released into the wind to blow away.
This particular batch of trash was made up of items thrown out over the past 50 years or so in swaths of land now owned by Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area in Coal Township, Pa. Well, not so much thrown out as illegally dumped.
Nearly a hundred volunteers combed one such area on a recent May Saturday morning during a trail clean up event sponsored by Quadratec and Off-Road Consulting. Some of them stuffed trash bags full of dirt-caked items while others formed human chains to move tire after muddy tire out of embankments and onto the trail, where they were tied up on a tow rope and dragged away.
”The trash is everywhere, it seems like it never ends because you pick up one piece and three more appear,” said volunteer Lee Daugherty. “It’s like someone took their whole house and shook it out into this gully.”
It wasn’t long before those trash bags and tires piled up high on one section of the trail, waiting for one of AOAA’s trucks to come by for removal.
The volunteers gave up their Saturday morning in the hopes their efforts would make the area just a little bit better. And cleaner. In return, they received breakfast and lunch as well as an afternoon raffle with over $2,000 in Jeep parts. All clean-up volunteers were then able to use the park to trail ride during the afternoon.
”This is something really needed to make a better off-road experience,” said Off Road Consulting Founder Kyle Buchter. “Most people come out to AOAA to have fun, and that’s great, but they don’t really give back to it—so there needs to be these people, these volunteers like today, who give back to (AOAA) on their own.”
”And that is what days like these are for. So people can give back. And that’s also why it is nice when companies like Quadratec come out to help support this, because it is really needed.”
Buchter and AOAA Operations Director David Porzi helped organize the group shortly after 9 a.m. and both stressed safety above everything else during the clean up because of the wet conditions and hilly terrain. Then the group headed out to locations in both the eastern and western sections of the park. Those in full size Jeeps tackled areas on the eastern side, while UTV/ATV riders worked the western side.
”We’re cleaning up what was done here over the past 50 years,” Porzi said. “The property was so abused, so dumped on, that we’ve all been working hard on getting it cleaned up. This is all about cleaning up the environment and making the property better for everybody and future generations to use.”
Buchter said the areas tagged for cleanup that Saturday morning were ones he’d run across during his many daily off-road training sessions.
”I see them when I’m out here almost everyday four wheeling, and I’m always driving by them going ‘we need to do something about that,’” he said. “So it is really nice to have all these people come out and volunteer to do that.”
It didn’t take long for the volunteers to jump in and begin prying trash, carpets, linoleum and other debris from the ground. Some wandered with trash bags and worked up and down the particular trail section, while others moved a bit further away and headed into a small ravine. More trash came up and more bags were filled.
Buchter drove by every few minutes with a three-trailer set up to help haul those bags away while AOAA also supplied trucks and employees for clean up.
And then there were the tires.
Hundreds and hundreds of them.
All shapes and sizes from what looked like bike tires all the way to enormous 42-inch Nittos that really didn't look much older than a year or two.
Many volunteers formed a long chain to extract tires from the ground and move them to the trail. Others stacked tire after tire in a staging area so Wheelers4x4 Founder Mike Kelly could thread a long tow strap through each one, and then attach to the back of his Wrangler to drag away.
In the end, more than 1,000 tires were pulled from the area. Porzi noted that none were destined for a landfill, and instead would all find new life in other projects.
”We’ve been doing cleanups for the entire five years that we’ve been open, and every year we’re bringing out more and more tires—and more and more garbage,” Porzi said. “All those tires, they don’t just go to the dump. We recycle all of them as we have a local company here that will take care of that.”
The Saturday cleanup was only supposed to last a few hours, but even though lunch was waiting for all the volunteers, none were ready to stop when Buchter called time.
”These volunteers are awesome,” he said. “I told everyone we were going to wrap this up around noon and I physically had to go down into the pit to tell people to stop because they want to get that last tire out—to pull out that last bit of trash—because it is a sense of accomplishment for them.”
”It goes beyond what they can win in a free raffle, or getting a free day of four wheeling. These people put the passion into it because they care.”