POMEROY, Wash. – Illia Dunes was closed yesterday, Sept. 7, until further notice due to significant environmental damage, and potential public health and safety concerns after recent heavy visitation and trash accumulation.
On Saturday, Sept. 6, about 1,800 people unexpectedly visited the Dunes, a popular site located at Snake River Mile 102 on the south shoreline about three miles downstream of Lower Granite Lock and Dam. Enormous amounts of trash were scattered on the beach, broken bottles and beer cans left in the water, extensive human waste on the beach and adjacent riparian areas, refuse strewn about the parking lots and litter discarded along the roadway -- all creating potential health and safety hazards. The Corps has emphasized that visitor actions help determine future usage of the Dunes, and asked visitors to treat the Dunes and nearby Granite Point with respect.
“We had to shut down the Dunes -- It’s a visitor-safety issue. Our first objective is to clear the area of dangerous broken glass and debris, and clean up the health risk caused by visitors not using the restrooms,” said Chris Lorz, park ranger at Lower Granite Lock and Dam. “Most visitors were being pretty good about keeping the Dunes nice. Saturday's crowd actions are really disappointing."
Natural Resources Management staff is coordinating cleanup. Officials are reviewing the situation to help prevent such occurrences. Illia Dunes was previously closed because of visitor misuse in late-August 2012 when a weekend crowd of about 3,000 visitors left behind thousands of pounds of trash, broken glass, foam coolers and other litter on the beach and along three miles of road ditch. Since then, Corps staff worked with the county to ban parking on Almota Ferry Road. Two parking lots remain available. Lorz noted that many drivers had parked in restricted areas on Saturday. The Corps also added more trash bins and bags, and reached out to nearby college campuses to emphasize visitor safety and responsibility. Illia Dunes visitors have long been asked to properly dispose of their trash, and the Corps provides free bags for that purpose. The District Commander has the option of banning alcohol consumption on Corps lands at any time, and such bans are in place at several locations in the region.
“We do not have the resources to repeatedly clean up after thousands of party-goers who refuse to use the trash bins and bags,” said Darren Opp, park manager. “Apparently, many people were not using the three vault toilets on site. With a multiple-stall bathroom also available just down the road at the Visitor Center, there’s no reason for creating a health hazard like that.”
“The area is a habitat management unit being managed for recreation and wildlife purposes.” said Opp. “It truly is a unique land resource, and it’s unfortunate some visitors don’t fully appreciate that value.”
Additional information about Illia Dunes, including a “Play It Safe!” fact sheet explaining what visitors can and cannot do on Corps lands, is available online at http://www.nww.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation/LittleGooseandLakeBryan/IlliaDunes.aspx.
Release no. 14-068