Cleaning up Micro-Trash: National Public Lands Day at Dougan Falls

Volunteers gathered early in the morning on Saturday, Sept. 25, as part of a joint DNR and Keep Nature Wild cleanup at Dougan Falls in Washougal, close to DNR’s Dougan Creek Campground and the Yacolt Burn State Forest.

“Dougan Falls is one of our very, very popular sites in the Pacific Cascade Region, with people going down by the waterfalls,” Pacific Cascade Region Recreation Manager Sharon Steriti said. “But, as DNR, we can’t maintain it all ourselves.”

Dougan Falls in Washougal, Washington.

The assembled group cleaned up trash of all sizes, ranging from cigarette butts to shoes, diapers and bottles.

When Keep Nature Wild, an outdoor clothing brand that cleans up two pounds of trash for every item purchased, reached out to DNR to set up a cleanup, Steriti could not have been more excited to welcome the help.

“I thought it was a really good opportunity to incorporate another partnership, get some people out here, and focus on picking up some of the micro-trash that people leave,” Steriti said.

Two volunteers and their dog cleaning up trailside trash.

Micro-trash refers to small pieces of garbage that enter the environment, such as cigarette butts, bottle caps, broken glass and other small pieces of plastic. While one piece may not seem to do much, micro-trash can have significant environmental impact when it accumulates.

Steriti explained that while most people don’t mean to litter, trash that enters the Washougal River can work its way into the Columbia River, and then the ocean and the fish we eat. When you help pick up micro-trash, you can help prevent this from happening.

Pacific Cascade Region Recreation Manager Sharon Steriti showcasing DNR’s heavy-duty trash bags.

“DNR benefits from the efforts of volunteers in many ways. They help out with our forest watch program, are our eyes and ears out in our forests, and also help out in recreation. It’s essential to have the public involved because they and many other groups across the state help us maintain many of our recreation areas,” Steriti said.

In addition to helping keep Washington’s trust lands clean, volunteers can also earn a complimentary Discover Pass through their volunteer efforts. Once a volunteer accrues 24 hours or more of volunteer time on certain projects managed by DNR, State Parks or WDFW in a 12-month period, they can earn a complimentary Discover Pass. Click here to learn more.

During the event, volunteers helped clean up 200 pounds of trash in total. To learn more about volunteer opportunities with DNR, visit dnr.wa.gov/volunteer.