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One Man's Quest To Clean Up Some Country Roads

Josh Stern is asking local officials to do something about the large piles of trash on roads in the San Pablo Reservoir watershed

Josh Stern stands near one of the many deposits of trash along Alhambra Valley Road
Josh Stern stands near one of the many deposits of trash along Alhambra Valley Road
If you drive on Alhambra Valley Road between Orinda and Martinez, the bucolic scenery is disrupted practically every quarter mile by piles of trash.

Not just garbage bags or tossed soda cans.

There's old blankets, life preservers, cans of transmission fluid, old mattresses and couches.

Josh Stern says he's seen worse on some of his bike rides and drives through the valley. He's come across abandoned cars, campers and even a hot tub.

The El Cerrito resident says the problem isn't confined to Alhambra Valley Road, although it seems to be a favorite dumping spot.

There's large hunks of garbage along Bear Creek Road and San Pablo Dam Road. Some of the trash on those roads isn't visible to drivers because it's been pushed over the embankment.

Stern knows why people do it. It's easy to unload garbage without being spotted on these rural roads and it saves them a trip to the dump.

"It just boggles my mind that people can be so cheap and so ignorant," he said.

Stern isn't just concerned about the unsightly mess the trash makes. He also worries the garbage is sitting on watershed areas for the San Pablo Reservoir and Briones Reservoir.

"That's what scares me," he said. "That's our drinking water."

So, Stern has started a campaign to clean up the problem.

He wants patrols increased on these country roads.

He suggests web cameras be set up to catch people driving in with trash and driving out with empty truck beds.

"That warns people they can't do this without impunity," said Stern.

He'd also like the fines bumped up. Right now, it's a $1,000 penalty if a violator is caught. Stern said that level of fine is worth the risk for illegal dumpers.

Stern, who works for Bayer Healthcare in Berkeley, has contacted a number of elected officials and government agencies in his quest to clean up the watershed corridors.

Among them are Rep. George Miller, state Senator Loni Hancock, state Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioia, the Contra Costa Sheriff's Department and the East Bay Municipal District.

So far, he's heard back from Miller's office, which told him they'd talk to EBMUD. Water district officials also replied, saying they are committed to keeping the trash under control.

They told Stern they have clean-up crews that patrol the area. They also said most of the dumping is done in the dark overnight hours, making web cameras of little use.

Stern said he appreciates the responses, but he's still determined to clean up this part of town.

"I'm dismayed this is not taken more seriously," he said.

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