POMEROY, Wash. – After significant cleanup during the past week, the Walla Walla District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers re-opened Illia Dunes recreation area on the Lower Snake River today. The popular area near Lower Granite Lock and Dam had been closed to the public since Aug. 27 due to health and safety concerns after heavy visitation and trash accumulation occurred the weekend of Aug. 25 and 26.
After announcing closure of the Dunes, the Corps received many offers of volunteer cleanup assistance from nearby university fraternities and sororities, plus individuals. To maintain safety and efficiently manage final cleanup yesterday, the Corps worked with a single organized group of volunteers from Washington State University. Corps officials expressed appreciation for all offers of volunteer help.
Going forward, Corps staff will monitor Illia Dunes visitors’ ongoing actions such as “pack it in, pack it out” removal of trash. The Corps provides free bags for trash collection and removal. The Corps will also monitor how well visitors keep glass containers off the beach at all times, consume alcohol responsibly, use provided restrooms, not use fireworks on Corps lands at any time, and enjoy their visit without breaking any laws or offending other visitors. In this way, visitors will be helping determine future recreational usage of the area, which is also a wildlife habitat management area.
Future options available to the Corps include an alcohol ban. Alcohol is currently allowed to be consumed at Illia Dunes by visitors in a responsible manner, but can be prohibited by the Corps.
An unexpected crowd of more than 3,000 people had visited the popular recreation on Aug. 25 and 26. Many broken bottles and beer cans were left in the water, garbage was strewn about the beach and parking lots, and litter was discarded along the roadway.
Corps staff and a grounds maintenance contractor initially cleaned the shore area of the dunes. Yesterday, an organized group of 64 student volunteers from Washington State University’s Center for Civic Engagement completed cleanup under Corps supervision. Overall, more than 3,000 pounds of trash was removed from the shore and in-water areas, three miles of ditch between Illia Dunes and Lower Granite Dam, and other nearby areas. Yesterday’s widespread volunteer trash collection filled another dumpster. To keep volunteers safe, the Corps asked them to wear sturdy shoes, hat, gloves, sunscreen and insect repellant, and carry drinking water.
Typical summer weekend visitation at Illia Dunes is 100 to 300 visitors, with up to 2,000 visitors on long holiday weekends or just before school begins. The Corps did not receive any specific advance requests for group events to be held Aug. 25-26.
The Corps continues to ask visitors to help keep the Illia Dunes area and other Corps “pack in in, pack it out” recreation areas and wildlife units clean.
More information about Walla Walla District recreation opportunities is available on the District website at http://www.nww.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation.aspx.