After the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found broken beer bottles and heaps of garbage on the beach at Illia Dunes, they were forced to close the dunes Monday because of health and safety concerns.
About 3,000 people partied at the dunes Aug. 25 and 26, leaving behind much more than a trace of their presence. The Corps said they have already cleaned up more than 3,000 pounds of garbage. The water has to be cleared of debris and three miles of ditch still need cleaned.
That means each person who was at the dunes left more than one pound of trash. It’s disgusting, repulsive and entirely uncalled for.
Located on the south shore of the Snake River about three miles from Lower Granite Dam, the Illia Dunes are a natural wonder. With a sandy beach, cool water and a healthy dose of sunshine, it’s a unique getaway from our landlocked everyday life — a small piece of paradise.
The dunes are a place for people of all ages to enjoy, but it seems they were taken over by a herd of college students, ready for fun without care for the natural habitat they damaged.
The Corps has set a few rules to govern the dunes. One is to not bring glass bottles. The second is to carry out the trash you bring in, supported by the free plastic bags provided at the dunes.
Not only were mounds of garbage left at the dunes in violation of the rules, some partygoers left bags of garbage, aluminum cans and numerous empty beer boxes around the sign that said, “Please keep area clean.”
Conservation and restoration nonprofit Keep America Beautiful calculated that litter cleanup costs the U.S. almost $11.5 billion each year. It’s an incredible burden on taxpayers and our government to clean up after people too irresponsible to do so themselves.
When observing a group of civilians using a recreational camping spot, KAB reported one in five people openly littered without regret. Applying that figure to the Illia dunes means about 600 of the 3,000 plus partygoers were openly contributing to the destruction of the dunes’ natural beauty.
We’re supposed to be the “enviro-generation” — the generation responsible for going green and taking better care of our planet than our parents did. Several Washington State University students have volunteered to work with the Corps’ Lower Granite Natural Resources Office to help clean the dunes during an event Sept. 1. But the bottom line is that the destruction of the dunes should never have happened in the first place.
What was once a beautiful environment for a relaxing weekend getaway ended up looking like a landfill. What’s really rubbish is our inability to think about the environment before ourselves.