Thursday, June 17, 2010

Doing the Right Thing

I was at the Beaver Marsh Preserve, just behind Compare Foods and Big Lots in on Avondale Drive in Durham, NC just a few days ago, right after the Beaver Queen Pageant. It had only been four days since a big work event that involved a hundred volunteers from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, dozens more locals from the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association, and even a herd of goats from the Goat Patrol. We had done tons of work hauling trash out of the marsh, clearing brush, disposing of invasive vegetation, building an information kiosk, setting fence posts, installing signs, marking trails, and anything else you can imagine a well kept nature preserve might deserve. The place looked really good.

Imagine my surprise when this guy drives up with a truck full of yard waste and starts to dump it right between the brand new kiosk and all the signs that say "No Dumping." The fact that I am standing there next to my parked car with a camera in my hand, seems to make no difference to him at all. So I speak up.

"Hey, you do know you are not supposed to dump stuff here, right? This is a nature preserve and dumping here is illegal."

"This stuff is biodegradable. There is nothing illegal about that."

"It doesn't matter. You are not supposed to dump anything here, biodegradable or not. People have put lots of work into making this place a relatively clean nature preserve. It is not a dump."

"If you can show me the law, some kind of ordinance that makes this illegal, I will stop. Otherwise, I know what I am doing" (He keeps unloading his truck and dragging the debris onto the bank behind the kiosk).

I put the camera to my eye and start shooting. He pays no attention.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" I ask as I keep shooting. He doesn't answer.  I get him. I get the truck. I get the license plate, I get the load, I get it all. Click, click, click. He keeps working. To be very honest, this is something those of us who care about the marsh have been waiting for, somebody caught in the act of dumping and enough evidence to establish his identity. A successful and highly publicized prosecution could be just what we needed to stop some of the dumping that is constantly spoiling the marsh. Game on!!!!

Finally the truck is empty and now he begins to try to hide his face. I keep shooting. He drives away, t-shirt pulled up in front of his face.

As he drives off, another Beaver Marsh admirer drives up and we begin to talk about how great the marsh looked. Of course I tell her about my face to face encounter with a dumper. 

Just then the truck returns. What now? I brace for trouble but somehow don't really expect anything to happen. I wait and watch. He goes right back to the dump site and begins to pull all of the debris out of the marsh and load it back into his truck. He was having second thoughts. We watch for a while. Then I go over and thank him for doing the right thing. He says he hopes this would satisfy anybody I had reported him to. I tell him that no report has been made and that the matter is closed as far as I am concerned. We shake hands, exchange names, and agree that the preserve is something to be protected. Then he asks me to take one more picture, this time with him doing the right thing.

By the way, I do realize that this might have had a very different outcome and that I was at some risk in the confrontation. I should also say that I have gone to some lengths beyond simply blurring this guy's face to disguise his identity. I did want to tell the story but I certainly didn't want to subject this young man to any unnecessary ridicule. Had he not come back, it would have been a very different situation. His real face and his deed would have been spread way beyond this little blog.


Anonymous said...

JIm, I am deeply glad you are alive - in all of the ways that that makes sense. I am glad that you did the right thing by speaking up, and the guy did the right thing by returning and cleaning up. I am glad that it went well. I am glad that you are my friend and that you always make me think along different tracks. I am glad that you have survived whatever other hosts of slings and arrows came your way. I am also glad that you were born. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

this reminds me of a Quote fro Hafiz I was just given recently. Hafiz was a contemporary of the poet rumi.
"I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being."
This was apparently a message from God to Hafiz.
Anyway, Jim, I think you showed that young man his astonishing light of his own being.

I love your magiciciada report and I plan to be reading you regularly. Suzanne in Apex