A few weeks back, I received an email from a BDN reader who had an unfortunately common complaint.
Someone had been dumping trash on his property, the reader said, and he was fed up. He always allowed others to recreate on his land but was leaning toward changing that policy and posting acres of prime forestland with “No Trespassing” signs.
Luckily for outdoor recreationists who access that man’s land, he hadn’t done so — yet.
I referred him to the Maine Forest Service, which keeps a database of similar sites and helps organize cleanup efforts annually.
This year, because of a partnership between the Maine Warden Service, Kittery Trading Post and the forest service, there’s an added incentive for those who help clean up someone else’s land.
On Sept. 12, the groups will stage a landowner appreciation cleanup contest, during which organized clubs will try to collect as much debris from illegal dumping sites as they can.
The only possible catch: Participants can’t win the Kittery Trading Post prizes unless they’re part of an actual club.
Rick LaFlamme, landowner relations specialist for the Maine Warden Service, said he’s willing to help anyone who wants to participate, even if they’re not members of a club.
“[You can] join in with a club, because some clubs might need a few extra volunteers or might need a pickup truck,” LaFlamme said. “And if you don’t know of a club, call me. I’ll find you one, because we want you to have a shot at the prizes.”
LaFlamme said the effort piggybacks off successful projects that have taken place for years.
“The forest service has always done their [landowner] appreciation day and we kind of helped them with it, but we figured we’d kick it up a notch,” LaFlamme said.
LaFlamme said he approached Fox Keim of Kittery Trading Post and asked whether the company would be willing to sponsor some prizes.
Keim’s response was more generous than the warden could have hoped: In all, $2,500 in gift cards have been donated and will be distributed to the four teams that collect the most trash.
The winning club will receive a $1,000 card, while $750, $500 and $250 cards will go to the next three groups.
LaFlamme said he notified every sporting, all-terrain vehicle and snowmobile club in the state’s database, and an email will be sent to 250,000 Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife customers, asking for their participation.
The fact that most Mainers recreate on property they don’t own makes the cleanup effort essential, LaFlamme said.
“It’s as simple as this: Without the private property landowner in the state of Maine, recreating and outdoor heritage as we know it is over,” LaFlamme said. “So it’s very important that all user groups participate in this. It’s open to almost any user group, including Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, whatever.”
LaFlamme said between 12 and 20 dumpsters — each with a capacity of 30 cubic yards — will be placed at Maine Forest Service and DIF&W headquarters locations around the state, and participants will deliver their trash to those collection sites. LaFlamme said each Dumpster would hold between five and 10 tons of debris, and he wants to fill all of them.
Club members will be asked for GPS coordinates of their cleanup site and should provide before and after photos.
LaFlamme said participation by clubs will show that those organizations are willing to combat illegal dumping and help landowners know they’re not alone.
“It’s a win-win situation. These organizations aren’t the ones that are dumping trash and creating property damage,” LaFlamme said. “But these clubs are going to benefit from helping the landowner [by maintaining public access to land that might otherwise be closed].”
LaFlamme said game wardens are busy looking for potential cleanup sites crews can be sent to on Sept. 12 but encouraged anyone who knows of a site to contact the DIF&W.
Anyone interested in taking part in the landowner appreciation cleanup contest can call Virginia Vincent at 287-5240. The contest will run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke.