St. George bike police, Boy Scout troop 0509 lead team effort to restore habitat near Virgin River

St. George Boy Scouts and police officers at the site of a cleanup near the Virgin River Trail, St. George, Utah, Feb. 4, 2023 | Photo from St. George Police Facebook, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Wildlife habitat on the banks of the Virgin River got a cleanup last Saturday.

The newly cleared and cleaned habitat after a work crew finished near the Virgin River Trail, St. George, Utah, Feb. 4, 2023 | Photo from St. George Police Facebook, St. George News

Members of the St. George Police Department Bike Patrol, several Boy Scouts from St. George Elks Lodge Troop 0509, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and the St. George Streets Department teamed up with other local volunteers to clear out an old bike jump and transient camp located off the Virgin River Trail.

“It started when the DWR contacted us about the area,” St. George Police officer Forrest VanWest told St. George News. “The habitat for birds and animals by the river was being harmed.”

He added that the location served as a camp for homeless transients. Further, he said, local kids and adults had built a large ramp for jumping BMX bikes.

“The DWR officer found a homeless camp, a huge ramp with tracks and sandbags and lots of garbage and harmful materials for the habitat,” VanWest said. “It destroyed the marsh area where there are birds and lots of animals. They asked us if we could help with a cleanup and we said, ‘That’s what we do. It’s quality of life.'”

VanWest said he understands kids want to jump bikes and be outside, but there are plenty of more safe spaces around St. George to do this.

“With the transients, there’s going to be people down here that they don’t want to run into,” VanWest said. “We don’t want them around dangerous people.”

Detritus around the jump included old canisters of insecticide and other harmful waste products that spoiled the surrounding habitat.

“We had a backhoe and completely filled up a dump truck,” said VanWest, adding that the three hours of work passed quickly.

“We forged good friendships,” he said. “We were all covered in mud, but it’s good to get muddy.”

Zach Hardy, the scoutmaster for Troop 0509, was at the cleanup and he said that all the groups worked well together to accomplish the task.

“It was good teamwork,” Hardy said. “A lot of the boys were able to fulfill their conservation hours in the project. It was a great effort by everybody.”

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