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Volunteers spend a weekend afternoon cleaning up mess left by vandals in the Mat-Su

Cottonwood Creek bathrooms were defaced in February with spray paint
Cottonwood Creek bathrooms were defaced in February with spray paint
Published: Apr. 11, 2022 at 5:21 PM AKDT
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WASILLA, Alaska (KTUU) - A modest, yet effective group of volunteers spent their Sunday assisting the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in cleaning up graffiti left by vandals at a Wasilla area trailhead.

Back in February, photos from a social media post from the group Alaskans for Palmer Hay Flats showed the bathrooms at Cottonwood Creek trailhead — part of the Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge — defaced with spray-painted profanity and lewd drawings. Doug Hill, refuge manager for the department’s Lands and Refuge Program, called it unnecessary.

“Kind of discouraging,” Hill said. “... Could be doing something constructive and we end up just cleaning up messes.”

Hill started this role for Fish and Game in 2010 and said he spends about a third of his time cleaning up trash left by people in the refuge. He was pleased to hear that Alaskans for Palmer Hay Flats had organized a volunteer-based cleanup group to help scrub off the unsightly vandalism in an otherwise pristine recreational area. Among the volunteers was Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly member Stephanie Nowers, who represents District 2 in Palmer.

“It’s such a gorgeous area,” Nowers said. “... and it’s just awful to see somebody, you know, trash a resource that we have.”

Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly member Stephanie Nowers scrubs spray paint off public use...
Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly member Stephanie Nowers scrubs spray paint off public use bathroom walls.(AKNS)

Hill and the four other community members worked for about two hours, spraying, scrubbing and pressure washing the restrooms, but the structure will likely need a new coat of paint to cover the remaining damage.

“People can come down and just enjoy the beauty of the refuge and, you know, not see something that a few bad people did,” Nowers said. “Because this is such a great place and there’s so many good people in the Valley that are trying to help build these places and come use them.”

Cleaning up trash and vandalism costs the state money and resources that Fish and Game officials say could be better spent fixing roads, managing wildlife, and improving trails. And while Hill believes he spends too much time cleaning up unnecessary messes along the refuge, it’s a relief to know that community members will step in to offer a hand from time to time.

“It’s a good morale boost for me,” Hill said. “... I know there’s a lot of good people out there.”

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