Cleanup has started at an open, outdoor trash dump that draws bears near a Scout camp in the Middle Fork Stanislaus watershed above Beardsley Reservoir.
On Monday afternoon, no one was there and no bears appeared to be present. Most of the trash Monday was not human food waste. It appeared to be tarps, scraps of lumber and former walls, bits of furniture, an old television set, bags of pine needles, sheets, towels, plastic racks for transporting food or drink, and wood pallets.
Mixed in or close to the bulk of the trash pile were some food-related trash items that could draw bears, including a Hershey’s chocolate bar wrapper, an Oreos box, a Goldfish Flavor Blast crackers bag and various plastic drink bottles.
The location is part of Camp John Mensinger, a former lumber camp donated to the Boy Scouts in the late 1960s. It’s owned by the Greater Yosemite Council, Boy Scouts of America, based in Modesto.
People at Camp John Mensinger declined to comment Monday, and they said no photos were allowed at the camp because youth were present.
“Conservation and responsible environmental stewardship are core tenets of Scouting,” Sonya Greene, scout executive and chief executive officer of the Greater Yosemite Council, Boy Scouts of America, said in a statement sent Monday to The Union Democrat by Public Relations PR@Scouting.org .
“As soon as we learned of this matter we developed a plan which is currently in process to clean up the site and restore it to its proper usage,” Greene said in the statement.
It is not clear who has been leaving trash at the Boys Scouts dump. People at the camp believe someone in the area is bringing trash and leaving it there.
Camp John Mensinger is more than an hour’s drive from Sonora. It’s northwest of Beardsley Dam and Beardsley Reservoir, off a paved road and out a dirt road on property close to land owned and logged by Sierra Pacific Industries.
On the north side of Beardsley Reservoir, well before the road nears Camp John Bensinger, there are yellow signs on some trees next to the paved road that state the area is a state game refuge.
Kyle Tomasovich, a logger who lives and works near Beardsley, said the area used to be called Soap Creek. Tomasovich says he and other loggers in the area had relatives who used to work at Soap Creek, and he’s related to people who used to work at the old lumber camp, which dates at least to the 1940s.
Tomasovich has been taking video and photos showing bears at the dump and he’s posted them to social media. He said Friday that people had come to start picking up the trash.
“They’re making progress, I give them that,” Tomasovich said Friday in a phone interview. “I don’t care if they dump couches and stuff, but you can’t dump human food waste. There’s so many bears in the area, there’s more bears out there, because there’s no hunting. I see bears there every day.”
Tomasovich said he had contacted state Fish and Wildlife authorities, and someone came out last week.
“There’s a state game refuge back there, and you can’t hunt,” Tomasovich said. “Feeding wildlife is a huge problem. The bears are eating plastic. This town that’s historical to us is being turned to (expletive). The bears take that trash and spread it out hundreds of yards.”
The Greater Yosemite Council, Boy Scouts of America, serves more than 7,000 youth in Tuolumne, Calaveras, Mariposa, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and parts of Sacramento counties, according to the group’s website. The people who work for the council help run programs including Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, Varsity Scouting and Venturing in partnership with the Boy Scouts of America.
Officials with Stanislaus National Forest headquarters in Sonora said last week Camp John Mensinger is on private property, and there’s no special-use permit issued by the forest for the camp, as far as they know. Diana Fredlund with Stanislaus National Forest public affairs said, since the camp is on private property, the Forest Service is not investigating the trash or the bears drawn to the trash.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has a web page devoted to how to keep California black bears wild.
People who want to bear-proof homes, rentals and timeshares should purchase and properly use bear-proof garbage containers, wait to put trash out until mornings on collection days, and keep garbage cans and other containers clean and deodorized with bleach or ammonia.
People who want to bear-proof campsites should maintain clean campsites, haul garbage out of camp regularly, check with camp hosts or other camp personnel about safe garbage storage, use bear lockers if available, and store food, including pet food and toiletries, in bear-proof containers.
Contact Guy McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.