RANGELY I Most years, National Public Lands Day comes and goes in Rangely. The coordinated volunteer effort to clean up public lands, which happens in hundreds of communities nationwide on the last Saturday of September and has for the last 20 years, goes mostly unnoticed here.
But that trend may be changing. On Saturday, the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) White River Field Office will coordinate a National Public Lands Day cleanup in Rangely while Meeker’s inaugural NPLD event was held last weekend on the China Wall Trail.
The events are the first of annual volunteer opportunities to be held in Rio Blanco County on or near the nationally recognized day, BLM outdoor recreation planner Aaron Grimes said.
Getting involved may only take a couple of hours, but understanding why volunteerism matters requires the long view.
“We all share our public lands; they’re our legacy through generations,” Grimes said. “It’s important to improve them. As the next generation comes along, we want the public lands’ condition to be better than it was when we had them. It’s that stewardship call we all have for these spaces.”
Volunteers will gather at Rangely’s Western Rio Blanco Metropolitan (WRBM) Recreation Center parking lot at 10 a.m. on Saturday for a short briefing before driving to a dump site one mile south of Rangely off of County Road 23 (Dragon Road). Participants will take a couple of hours to remove recent household trash and other surface debris from the location.
The BLM will provide National Public Lands Day T-shirts, work gloves and water to volunteers, who should wear sturdy boots and pants. People of all ages are welcome at the events, provided children 12 and under are accompanied by an adult and those 18 and under have an adult sign a volunteer agreement.
The open invitation ties into a major theme of National Public Lands Day efforts: to give everyone, regardless of age, interests, limitations or abilities the chance to connect to and improve their open spaces.
“I think we’ll be able to find tasks for everybody,” Grimes said. “Whoever is there with whatever ability, we’ll be able to help them contribute to the projects.”
Despite what past labors may have lacked in consistency, local residents have made efforts over the years to improve the thousands of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) acres surrounding them.
On National Public Lands Day in 2010, for example, a Boy Scout troop cleared Rangely’s Texas Beach of household trash and debris.
During her tenure here, former Colorado Northwestern Community College English instructor Jenn McArdle coordinated cleanup days for students, faculty and staff. And other, more informal efforts have taken place among friends and like-minded people.
Local and federal agencies have also begun collaborating to improve public lands on a larger scale. Last month, a partnership between the BLM and Rio Blanco County resulted in more than a dozen dump truck loads of cable, appliances and trash being removed from a 30-foot-deep ravine near Gillam Draw, along with the cleanup of two other, smaller sites.
Now the county and the U.S. Department of the Interior are working on an assistance agreement to coordinate future dump site cleanups.
For Grimes, the agreement is another good reason to gather Rangely and area residents on Saturday.
“I’m hoping we can talk with people and see if they know about other sites that are a high priority for (heavy equipment cleanup),” Grimes said. “We need to start looking for opportunities to get ready for Phase 2 of that process.”