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Litter by litter

April 19, 1997

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer

FAYETTEVILLE, Pa. - Each year tons of debris, litter, junk, old tires, and even old appliances show up along the 130 miles of gravel road that crisscross the 86,000-acre Michaux State Forest that touches Franklin, Adams and Cumberland counties in Pennsylvania.

The task of guarding the forest against illegal dumpers is left to the single ranger who patrols its roads, said Kenneth D. Swartz, chief ranger. "If we can catch them we prosecute, but it's hard to catch them with just one man on five days a week," Swartz said.

The forest's other 21 full-time employees and 10 seasonal workers maintain the forest, its two parks, eight reservoirs, its watersheds, oversee its lumbering operations and hunting and fishing activities, Swartz said. Even the state prison inmates brought in each year to clean the roadsides can't keep up with the carelessness of residents who use the forest as a private dump, he said.

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"We use a lot of volunteers," Swartz said.

Among those volunteers is the Community Environmental Legal Defense Funds' "Project Michaux."

Based in Franklin and Cumberland counties, the nonprofit fund provides free legal service to environmental groups and movements like the ongoing effort to stop construction of Exit 7 on Interstate 81 in Chambersburg, said fund spokesman Tom Linzey.

It also runs a sustainable cities project which takes up causes like the cleanup of Michaux State Forest, Linzey said.

Last year, in the fund's first foray into the forest, it enlisted the help of students from Shippensburg University to organize and provide volunteers for the clean- up. This year 17 volunteer student groups from Shippensburg and other nearby colleges have signed on, Linzey said.

He said the fund also hopes to recruit volunteer units, groups from area churches, civic and fraternal organizations, mountain biking clubs and local Green Party organizations into a permanent battalion of organizations to adopt sections of the forest and keep it clean. "We want to bring in groups that traditionally have not been involved in projects like this," he said. "We'd like to make it more of a community project than a university project," he said.

"We're hoping to set it up like the Adopt-a-Highway program into a comprehensive, permanent cleanup operation," Linzey said. "Eventually we hope to have signs made up showing the adopted areas," he said. "The signs will remind the groups that they have to keep their sections clean."

"We think it's great," Swartz said. "We're not opposed to anyone picking up trash. It's really needed. There's lots of groups doing it."

About 36 miles of the Appalachian Trail run through the forest, Swartz said.

Most of the land in the forest was bought by the state in 1932, Swartz said. It is named in honor of Andre Michaux and his son, Francois Andre Michaux, the well-known French botanist. The Michauxs donated money to Pennsylvania for green space in the late 19th century.

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