Submitted photo##In September 2014, the Yamhill County Health Department posted small, yellow closure signs on the South Yamhill River near Amity, after swimmers at Green Bridge tested positive for E. coli. Downstream, drinking water had to be boiled. Certainly not improving the unhealthy conditions, litter dots the area.
Submitted photo##In September 2014, the Yamhill County Health Department posted small, yellow closure signs on the South Yamhill River near Amity, after swimmers at Green Bridge tested positive for E. coli. Downstream, drinking water had to be boiled. Certainly not improving the unhealthy conditions, litter dots the area.
Submitted photo##People thoughtlessly stash their trash — some bagged, some loose — and leave it beside Bellevue Highway at Green Bridge.
Submitted photo##People thoughtlessly stash their trash — some bagged, some loose — and leave it beside Bellevue Highway at Green Bridge.
Submitted photo##A rutted trail leads straight past a torn-down No Trespassing sign, toward the banks of the South Yamhill River near Amity.
Submitted photo##A rutted trail leads straight past a torn-down No Trespassing sign, toward the banks of the South Yamhill River near Amity.
By Preston Henry • Guest Writer • 

Land we love is at risk

As a lifelong Oregonian, I am proud of my heritage. My family’s presence on this land includes five generations, here and elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest. We were pioneers and have been mindful farmers and stewards of this country’s land and resources, realizing these natural gifts should be treasured, nurtured and protected.

My parents and grandparents taught me these principles.

Political and environmental giants such as Tom McCall, Oswald West, Bob Straub and Hector McPherson also influenced my thinking.

So it is with deep frustration I have noticed for years a decline in Oregonians’ sense of commitment to the land. The likes of Teddy Roosevelt and the great American conservationists of the early 20th century — Aldo Leopold, Gifford Pinchot and “Ding” Darling, among other notables —  advanced an environmental ethos, but its importance has eroded.

As avid outdoorsmen, sportsmen and farmers, these men were outspoken advocates for strong conservation policies, laws and regulations. These visionaries spoke openly and publicly about the value of wilderness, open space, clean air and water, along with the economic importance of these resources. For most Americans, these values became central in their lives.

Well, in today’s environment, the priorities of our air, water and land have lessened in favor of politics and business. My indignation has been growing for some time and finally reached the tipping point late last summer.

When the weather is warm, people head for water. The area around Green Bridge, where Bellevue Highway crosses the South Yamhill River between Amity and Bellevue, has become a favorite recreation hot spot for some Yamhill County residents.

On warm summer days, local people of all ages gather there in considerable numbers to jump off the bridge into the water and relax on the “beach” below. On the face of it, this gathering is not a problem but actually a solution, for comfort when the sun shines and temperatures rise.

Sadly, though, these people willfully ignore trespassing laws and run their vehicles across private farmland, causing serious damage. With complete disregard for the river, shoreline and beach, they willfully and mindlessly desecrate it with litter, garbage, contaminated clothing, even diapers and fecal waste. This oasis is a place they supposedly love!

Over the years, I picked up their trash, discarded furniture and beer cans, among other things. But last year, the county finally closed the river because of bacterial contamination sickening those who used this area.

Last year’s News-Register article addressed the problem, mentioning that contamination could have been from livestock having access to the river (very few do, if any) or from wildlife, which could be true. But in my opinion, more likely than not, it was completely human-caused by those frequenting the site.

Landowners along the Yamhill have lived there for several generations, and they epitomize what it means to have a strong land ethos. These families are stewards, conservationists and farmers who value the land and the river. Yet they are harassed, disrespected and violated by the actions of many who use this spot, which is on private land. And, sadly, I also see far too much litter on many of our public shorelines, beaches, parks, state and federal forests.

It is time for leadership from our elected officials to set a tone for what it means to be an Oregonian and a proud citizen of Yamhill County. It is time for us to hold one another accountable and, most importantly, to hold ourselves personally accountable.

No longer is it acceptable to say “Oh, someone else will clean that up” or “Someone or the county will be along to clean up that mess.” We must be the solution. Whenever we go out to experience the beautiful Pacific Northwest, we need to follow the outdoorsman’s rule: leave no trace.

If the property is not public, ask for permission for access before entering. Support taxes allowing for the development and maintenance of parks and public lands. Notify the county if you see an illegal dump site. Turn in vandals and trespassers. Adopt a road or highway and help keep it clean.

And demand our elected officials get their priorities straight. Living and acting for the common good, following the Golden Rule — treating others as you would want to be treated — must be how we, as human beings, are meant to live and conduct ourselves.

Keeping our land and water trash-free is the most easily solved pollution problem. If we fail to do our part, we will all find ourselves restricted from access to private lands. We will have too few public places to enjoy because they will no longer be enjoyable.

I love this land we call Oregon; I would wager that love of the land is why most of us make this beautiful state our home. We all long for a dip in cool, clean water on a hot day, but make the extra effort to care for and clean up what you use. It’s a matter of respect.

Guest writer Preston Henry is a native Oregonian and 21-year resident of rural Yamhill County. He has a passion for agriculture, conservation, wildlife and is an avid outdoorsman. He and his wife have two grown children and enjoy life on their farm near Amity.

Comments

trafman

Sorry to say that if the landfill is forced to close ,you will start seeing more and more illegal dump sites all around Yamhill county. Making it harder to get rid of loads of trash and junk for a reasonable price,will indeed be a factor causing this. Then watch all the people scream about how much more trashier this county has become. At county expense the messes will have to be cleaned up. Careful what you ask for. Oh yes we don't want to keep away the wine tourists from all the vinyards.

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