ANCRAM—One person’s treasure is another person’s trash heap.
Columbia County still has some wild remote places. While some delight in these off-the-beaten-path natural treasures, others see the secluded sites as ideal for dumping trash.
Sometime in September a resident of Catalano Road in the southeastern part of town noticed someone had been using a ravine on one side of the steep dirt road as a dump. She reported it.
The property is part of the Columbia Land Conservancy’s (CLC) 415-acre Round Ball Mountain Conservation Area, which can be accessed off Carson Road along the Columbia/Dutchess County border and includes 6.5 miles of trails and a 1,318 foot summit with views of the Harlem Valley and Taconic Mountains.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), a sheriff’s deputy and the Ancram Highway Department were called in.
Ancram Highway Superintendent Jim MacArthur said by phone this week that it looked as if someone backed a truck up to the edge of the road at a place where there was no guiderail and shoved a pile of building materials including sheet rock, a door, old boards and lumber down into a 40-foot ravine, the bottom of which is an old creek bed.
Mr. MacArthur said he sent his crew to check it out and clean it up.
But they found a lot more than the building materials. The highway boss said the location had apparently been used as a dump for some time and tires, televisions, toys and mattresses were all part of the discarded pile.
The men started reaching down the ravine with a backhoe to grab the stuff, but were not able to retrieve much before the bank started crumbling and sliding down on top of the debris.
The men reported back to Mr. MacArthur about the situation. In the meantime, the DEC set up infrared motion detector cameras at the site in an attempt to catch the dumpers.
A couple of weeks ago, Mr. MacArthur and his intrepid crew returned to the site with an alternate cleanup strategy.
Two men, Brian Ingles and Barry Hay, found a place further up the road where the bank was not quite as steep and they could walk down onto the stream bed.
Mr. MacArthur said he had secured a 100-gallon-sized trash receptacle from the Ancram Mill. The container, which resembled a grain cart or a small dumpster, was made of heavy-duty plastic had been “rigged-up” with hooks so it could be picked up with a fork-lift, he said. The container was lowered into the ravine, the two guys below filled it up, the crew on the roadside above hoisted the container and transferred the debris to a town dump truck. Ropes were tied around the old tires and large items, which were also hauled up the embankment.
Mr. MacArthur said after a couple of hours they collected two truckloads of stuff, which they took to Barbato’s in Hillsdale for disposal. Some of the mattresses were so old they disintegrated when they were picked up, he said. The highway crew had to mount a similar cleanup mission on Over Mountain Road some time ago, said the highway chief.
CLC Executive Director Peter Paden said that Catalano Road bisects the Round Ball Mountain Conservation Area. He was made aware of the dumping, but said it is not a common practice now-a-days. He said anyone who owns a chunk of woods anywhere in the county will likely find stuff dumped there. He said such dumping was part of “ancient history” and is not a recurrent or widespread problem at the CLC’s conservation areas now.
CLC Public Lands and Volunteer Manager Nate Davis, who was on speaker phone with Mr. Paden and The Columbia Paper, said, CLC has some good neighbors who help keep an eye on the property, and CLC staff make frequent trips there for maintenance purposes. He said the dumping started long before CLC started managing the property and the most recent episode just added to the existing pile.
Mr. Paden said the CLC has ordered “No dumping” signs, which will soon be posted.
DEC Spokesman Rick Georgeson said his agency’s “investigation into the cause of the dumping is ongoing. No arrests have been made. We have stepped up our patrols in the area.” Anyone with information about the illegal dumping is asked to contact EnCon Officer James Davey at 518 414-6083.
To contact Diane Valden email .