CASPER, Wyo. — Joe Harshfield didn't want to see his favorite weekend shooting spot shut down.
He uses the public land off Coal Mountain Road west of Casper for target practice and to sight in new weapons. He hauls out bags of trash every time he makes a visit.
Discouraged by the shot-out TVs and bullet-riddled washing machines abandoned throughout the informal shooting area at Coal Mountain Road, the local sportsman posted a call for cleanup on his Wyoming weapons-swap Facebook page in March.
Within four hours, 50 volunteers signed up.
"We're just tired of seeing it dirty," he said. Harshfield took his idea to the Casper office of the Bureau of Land Management, where officials were shocked that he had already done the legwork of recruiting volunteers who were more than than eager to help out, he said.
Today, Harshfield's idea has grown to a total of 150 registered volunteers, all planning to clean the Coal Mountain Road area from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The BLM, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Wyoming Office of State Lands, the city of Casper and the Natrona County Road and Bridge Department joined in the effort.
This is not the first time such a cleanup effort will haul out massive loads of trash from the Coal Mountain Road area. A similar volunteer day in 2006 brought 300 volunteers to haul junk, and in 2007, 40 volunteers worked on the land, said Eve Skillman, BLM's Casper Field Office recreation planner.
Officials agree the state cannot go on dumping resources into cleaning public land that the public continues to trash.
"We just can't continue to manage this area in the same way that we're been managing it over the years," Skillman said. "We looked at it and said, 'We have to do something different.'"
The BLM is considering setting up specific zones for shooting, posting signs telling people to only shoot at paper targets, and redefining parking areas with impenetrable boulders to replace wood poles that people have shot down, Skillman said. She said shooters in the past two years have taken aim at trees in the area, shooting some of them in half.
"It seems the money we've spent trying to develop responsible action by the public hasn't been very well received," said Michael Henn of Wyoming's Office of State Lands.
Though Henn said his office has discussed closing Coal Mountain Road to shooters, that's not an ideal solution. Shooters will take their sport elsewhere if Coal Mountain Road is closed, Henn said.
"How do we keep this from occurring without closing it?" Henn said. "That's the magic key."
To prepare for the volunteer caravans Saturday morning, a county crew graded Coal Mountain Road and hauled 300 pounds of nails out of parking areas Wednesday, Natrona County Road and Bridge Superintendent Mike Haigler said.
"And who knows if we got 'em all," Haigler said.
Batteries, glass bottles and aluminum cans are commonplace at Coal Mountain Road, he said. Sometime within the past year, a Natrona County bomb technician uncovered four undetonated PVC pipe bombs in the area, said Lt. Gus Holbrook of the Natrona County Sheriff's Office.
"There's some hazardous waste out there," Haigler said. "They're prepared to take care of all that on Saturday."