Trespassing concerns increase as work begins at landfill
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – It took years of legal wrangling for the U.S. Forest Service and El Dorado County to begin work on a protective cap to contain municipal waste pollution at the old Meyers landfill.
But changing people’s habits may be just as challenging.
Trespassing at the landfill has become a “major problem” since the Forest Service expanded a closure order prohibiting entrance to the area surrounding the landfill on June 25, said Forest Service spokeswoman Cheva Heck during a tour of the site on Monday.
Most of the people entering the closed area are nearby residents who are accustomed to walking, jogging, mountain bike riding or dirt bike riding in the area.
The landfill, which is located near the intersection of Pioneer Trail and Elks Club Drive, has been under a closure ordered since 1997. The Forest Service expanded the closure order to include the area from Garbage Dump Road to Saxon Creek prior to the start of work on the project more than a month ago.
Forest Service officials understand the area’s popularity among the public because of its convenient location next to a residential area and the access it provides to other heavily-used trails in the area.
But the operation of heavy machinery at the landfill, vehicle traffic along Garbage Dump Road and large pits being dug to remove waste from a sewer line running under the landfill all have the potential to be public safety hazards.
“It’s municipal waste, there’s glass, there’s metal, god knows what,” said Gail Bakker, the project’s coordinator.
“That’s just not a good place to be right now,” Heck added.
Heck, who lives in the area, said there is an abundance of trails nearby that provide the same recreational opportunities, without the associated concerns.
But it may take more than the abundant “area closed” signs at the entrance gate and other access points to the area to keep people out.
“I was here for four hours on Saturday and I saw seven people,” said Jim Harris, a hydrologist on the project.
The Forest Service has already issued one citation, to the tune of $175, for entering the closed area, Heck said.
Federal land managers do not want to hand out additional citations, but a greater presence by Forest Service law enforcement personnel may be needed to keep people away from the dangers, Heck said.
“We would prefer not to have to expend those resources out here,” Heck said.
In addition to safety concerns, public use of the area during construction may also slow progress on the project, Heck said.
The expanded closure is already expected to be in place longer than initially anticipated.
Forest Service officials hoped to have the cap in place by the end of this summer, but discovered the waste in the landfill covers a wider area than originally thought, said Deputy Forest Supervisor Eli Ilano.
The Forest Service hopes to have the cap in place by the end of next summer, Ilano said.
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