LONG BEACH, Wash. - The highways and logging roads of Pacific County are looking a lot cleaner these days thanks to the efforts of Pacific County Sheriff's deputies Larry and Jerry Clark and their inmate work crews.
Since the county's Environmental Health Community Litter Cleanup Program began five years ago, the crews have been No. 1 in the state in mileage, tonnage and improvement in appearance.
Each year the Pacific County crews of three to eight jail inmates and people serving community service sentences travel 1,800 miles on state and county roads and to wooded dump sites in the 980-square-mile county.
The program appears to be making an impact. The first year, crews cleared 350 dump sites alone. In 2000, crews found 253 illegal dump sites and removed 180,000 pounds of solid waste from the roadside.
Last year, 88 dump sites were cleared and 163,805 pounds of garbage, 12,000 30-gallon bags, were picked up from public, private and state-owned land.
Most of the litter flung out of car windows along the county's highways consists of fast food wrappers and beer cans, Larry Clark said. Over the years, the crews have found purses, wallets, letters, driver's licenses, CDs and travelers checks. They also find needles and "lots of discarded drug paraphernalia," he said.
The first year of the program was "totally amazing," Jerry Clark said. "We started on the 'Black Hole of Calcutta,' a site off Highway 101 that had been used as a dumpsite for years. We were there for two weeks and dug it out in layers."
Besides washers, dryers, refrigerators and freezers, there were items at the site from the 1940s. "We found names on prescription bottles, magazines and envelopes," he said, that helped identify the illegal dumpers.
Jerry Clark said if the crews can pick up 200,000 pounds of garbage this year they'll hit the 1 million-pound mark. "We'd like to work ourselves out of a job," he said.
For the most part, the public appreciates the effort, Larry Clark said. "We get thumbs up from them as they drive by," he said. "They like to see an effort is being made."
The Clarks give Pacific County Sheriff John Didion credit for getting the program going.
"When the sheriff first said 'Do it,' we built our own program from scratch, using trial and error," Larry Clark said. And it paid off. The first year of the program, Clark went to a statewide meeting attended by all the counties.
"There wasn't a county who had a program even a quarter as complete as ours," he said. "We get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing a clean county."