Seaside’s Jesse Anderson, a 37-year-old commercial fisherman, was walking his dog near the Tillamook Boat Launch on the Necanicum River south of the city in mid-January when he found used hypodermic needles littered amidst piles of trash.
An illegal encampment was occupied by three people and a dog, filled with trash and more needles.
“I know it floods out there,” Anderson said Tuesday. “I know needles float and end up on your beaches. I just ain’t gonna have it.”
He called Seaside Police to see what could be done about cleaning up.
Officers told Anderson he could start removing garbage, though he couldn’t legally remove occupied tents.
Police ticketed the squatters.
Meanwhile, Anderson collected 20 yards of trash, using bags he brought himself and Sharps containers provided by police to handle used needles.
Seeking awareness of the problem, he turned to social media, posting pictures of the encampments and their waste. Day after day in late January he picked up garbage, and while admittedly not tech savvy, conceived the “Seaside Community Cleanup” Facebook group.
On Jan. 29, he received assistance from city public works employee Jeremy Strimple, who worked with the department’s director Dale McDowell to provide a backhoe and a dumpster.
“Dale was seeing the garbage and getting reports about it from the community,” Anderson said. “I said, ‘You guys are lifesavers — can you leave the dumpster?’ I filled every bag I could, picked up every needle I could.”
Anderson’s posts were showing results. When he mentioned on social media he could use hot coffee and more garbage bags, “right away somebody showed up with coffee,” he said. “Then somebody showed up with more coffee and garbage bags. That day I put about 12 or 13 yards into the dumpster.”
For the next week, Anderson continued working along the river, despite high winds and drenching storms.
“Any time I’ve planned on the weather it hasn’t helped,” he said.
Whether driven by the social media attention, police intervention or Anderson’s determined cleanup efforts, those living in the encampments along the river retreated.
Now Anderson has his eye on cleaning up Mill Ponds, which he said is “a total disaster,” with layers of debris, stolen items, bicycle parts, recyclables and biohazard waste strewn all around the park.
His timing is good: the 26.5-acre park is the focus of the city’s Parks Advisory Committee plans for more accessible trails, public art and historical interpretive signage. The park is the anchor of the Necanicum Estuary History Park, which goes from the Mill Pond to Neawanna Point at the north end of Seaside.
Meanwhile, his Facebook posts gained traction and won attention throughout the county including the Facebook group, Rolling Fortress, described as “a community of individuals who pride themselves in building awesome all-in-one contained campers and caring for our environment.” The group’s Brady Chandler will co-host Saturday’s event, Anderson said.
Volunteers are invited to park at Ruby’s overflow lot at 9 a.m. Seaside Public Works will supply two dumpsters, boxes of rubber gloves, large plastic bags and Sharps containers for needles, McDowell said.
Providence Seaside Hospital, Columbia Memorial Hospital and Bayshore Animal Hospital are all providing Sharps containers, Anderson said. Motel 6 announced special overnight rates to volunteers.
The event is not for children. Volunteers should bring gloves to handle potentially hazardous material.
“Keeping people aware,” Anderson said. “That is my goal. I want the community to use Mill Ponds. I want the community to use the boat launch.”
He said he hopes for a turnout of “100 people plus” on Saturday.
“I can move 12 yards of garbage in a day by myself. But I don’t think I can take the whole city by myself.”