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City lurks to dump on the dumpers at Oaks Bottom

by: Merry MacKinnon, “Wheels Up”: This grocery shopping cart was recently shoved by a vandal off the bluff, lodging halfway down the hill by S.E.13th Avenue above Oaks Bottom. Such trashing of Portland results in a $500 fine, when the offender is caught.

Despite the City's unmistakable, strategically-placed 'No Dumping' signs, people continue to dump trash off Oaks Bottom bluff. Perhaps these are the same people who interpret red stoplights as an invitation to speed up rather than stop.

'People have been throwing stuff off the bluff for years,' sighs Portland Parks Ecologist, and Manager of Oaks Bottom, Mark Wilson. 'And they persist in doing that.'

Even the promise of a $500 fine failed to stop someone recently from maliciously shoving a shopping cart off the bluff in Sellwood on the west side of S.E. 13th Avenue.

Besides costing the city to send maintenance workers (at $10 an hour) to retrieve the metal cart, such vandalism also poses a danger to hikers below. 'It's a public safety problem,' says Wilson.

Although pitching trash, such as shopping carts, tires, and even washing machines, is the worst dumping offense from Wilson's point of view, yard debris dumping is also exasperating, costly, and hazardous.

The Oaks Bottom bluff runs from Sellwood's S.E. Spokane Street all the way north to Brooklyn's Ross Island Bridge. When spilled onto the hillside, yard debris absorbs water. Then, as the weight increases and the heap gives way and washes down the hill, it all too often causes a landslide.

The good news is that yard debris dumping occurs less frequently than used to be the case, says Wilson, who has been monitoring Oaks Bottom for six years, perhaps because of the biweekly curbside recycling program for such trash.

But, elsewhere, people still regularly sneak into sparsely populated spots to illegally dispose of their yard debris, and worse. 'We have trouble with people dumping debris in all of our natural areas in Portland,' admits Wilson.

Nevertheless, he figures the Inner Southeast neighborhoods in general have gotten the no-dumping message. But, he adds, 'they do need to be reminded.' So let this be a reminder.

And, by the way, lest we forget, red lights do mean 'stop'.