At first, it was just some pizza boxes and beer cans — nothing like the steer carcass, mattresses and glass shards there now.
A 20-acre land preserve along South River Road just west of County Road 600 West in rural Cass County is in danger of being closed off because of persistent dumping that’s plagued the land’s owners for several years.
“I went out there last winter, and there was a dead steer, a 1,500-pound steer was dumped,” said Ron Haston, stewardship manager for the land trust. “That has to be somebody local with a tractor and a loader.”
But it’s not the first time that large items have been left just out of sight of drivers on South River Road. Dumping at the site has been a problem since before Haston joined NICHES about two years ago.
“It’s out of hand,” he emphasized. “We’re at the point right now, it’s critical mass. We don’t like to do it, and we haven’t had to do it before, but we will close that property down if we have to and prosecute anybody who goes onto that property.”
Currently, the land is open for anyone’s enjoyment. Unique ecological traits such as surface bedrock and Dolomite prairie made it a desirable acquisition for NICHES, said Haston. Local residents often use the area as a convenient fishing spot, he added, and others have been known to camp there.
The Ervin family is among the campers.
The family of avid outdoorsy types found their favorite camping spot near a pullover on the Justice Farms property by accident six or seven years ago, said Monica Ervin. She and her husband have camped there with their children and some extended family every fall since.
“There was some trash out there when we first found it,” she said, “but it was more like household trash. Beer cans, plastic bags, that kind of thing.”
Each year before their family campout, she and her husband, Rae, take at least one evening and clean up the litter around the firepit, disposing of it in their own household trash soon afterward.