Trash issues plague popular shooting site

By Sarah Pridgeon

Spent shotshells dot the ground around the shooting range near Reuter Campground.
Spent shotshells dot the ground around the shooting range near Reuter Campground.

It’s a popular place for recreational shooting, but the abandoned quarry off Warren Peak highway has long been plagued by trash issues. Hoping to reduce the amount of garbage being dumped at the site, the Bear Lodge Ranger District is adding signage and a gate to remind people it’s a non-motorized part of the Black Hills National Forest.

“We’ve had some issues with trash being dumped on the Forest. There is an area near the Reuter Campground that’s an abandoned quarry and there’s quite a bit of trash being dumped back in there,” says Jason Armbruster, acting District Ranger.

“This area is accessed off of a short road of less than a quarter mile of the Warren Peak highway.”

Though it hasn’t been all that clear until now, Armbruster explains, the road to the quarry is not actually open to vehicles on the Forest Service’s motor vehicle use map.

“It’s not open for that type of use but there’s no gate or signage there currently, so I think a lot of people don’t know you’re not supposed to drive back there,” he says.

“In an effort to address some of the trash and sanitation issues up there, we’re going to be installing a gate and some signage, just to let folks know that motorized traffic isn’t allowed on that road. We’re hoping that will help mitigate some of those trash issues back there.”

(Jeff Moberg photos) An accumulation of discarded clothing and other trash litters the ground nearby.
(Jeff Moberg photos) An accumulation of discarded clothing and other trash litters the ground nearby.

From garbage bags full of trash to old junk that is hauled to the quarry to be used for target practice and then left behind, enough trash is cleaned from the site every summer to fill several trailers, Armbruster says.

“It is a place where stuff has tended to be dumped, for whatever reason; I believe it’s been an ongoing issue. Some of it’s big, jagged, metal stuff that could pose a hazard to other visitors or to wildlife or to Forest Service employees when they have to go up there and haul it off,” he says.

“We’re hoping that, by putting the gate there, that kind of stuff won’t get packed back there to be left on the Forest.”

Armbruster stresses that the measures will not change anything about the site’s accessibility or usage.

“It’s not a change to our motor vehicle use map, it’s already identified as not open,” he repeats.

“It’s a change to how we’re implementing that, by putting up the gate.”

Even so, he reassures the public that not being able to drive the road to the quarry will do little to interrupt enjoyment of the Forest beyond.

“The road accesses the quarry area and then it accesses a couple of other nonmotorized trails, so there’s not a whole lot of need to drive back there – it’s not going to cut off access to a lot of the Forest or anything like that,” he says.

“You can walk down there and of course we encourage folks to use their National Forest and the same legal uses that have always taken place up there can continue.”

Armbruster politely requests that visitors to the site – and the Forest beyond – follow the ‘Leave No Trace’ approach. In other words, he explains, “Leave the Forest in the same condition it was when you got there, so that the next people can enjoy it, whether it’s picking up trash at your camp site and depositing it in receptacles there or, if you’re out in the back country, cleaning up after yourselves, or, if you’re out doing some recreational shooting, cleaning up the targets you use and spent shells and things like that.”

“We want the Forest to look nice and be safe and clean for all visitors and for wildlife, so we’re just trying to control that issue a little bit,” he concludes.