When Faith Muello moved across the country from Massachusetts to the valley in 2017, one of her favorite activities was to take her horse, Beamer, for a ride through the desert. That was when she noticed something among the beauty of the landscape that she didn’t like.
“There were all these little, mini dump piles, particularly off Gamebird Road and off Fox Avenue. And I had never seen trash like this,” Muello recalled.
That was the impetus behind Clean Up Pahrump, an officially trademarked name for the group that is working to better the community by picking up trash illegally dumped on BLM land and littered along public roadways. Each week, volunteers meet at a pre-determined location for an hour of cleanup and this last Saturday, that target area was South Dandelion Street between Honeysuckle Street and Calvada Boulevard.
Gathering just before 8 a.m., a volunteer force 18 members strong hit the roadsides with gloves, trash-grabbers, garbage bags and buckets to collect all of the bits and chunks of debris that have been left behind by thoughtless motorists and pedestrians.
“It’s just one hour a week, to make a real difference,” Clean Up Pahrump volunteer Pat Kyne told the Pahrump Valley Times as she was out that morning with her husband, Craig Washburn. “Faith has really worked so hard to put this organization together and to keep it running. She should get a lot of credit for what she’s done. And Jason Dobson kept it going in her absence, when she was back East for a while, so there was never a break in the action.”
Fellow cleanup participant Francine Torrigiani said she was more than happy to give her time beautifying the community she has called home for two years now.
“I love small towns, I grew up in one and I love it here! The people are just wonderful,” Torrigiani raved.
All together, the cleanup last Saturday resulted in 700 pounds of garbage being removed from the 0.3-mile stretch of Dandelion Road and the 0.4-mile stretch of Honeysuckle Street fronting Ian Deutch Memorial Park, which a Clean Up Pahrump couple tackled that morning as well.
In total, Muello reported that 87 tons of trash has been picked up since 2019, when the group started tracking the weight of its loads as measured at the Pahrump landfill. Clean Up Pahrump members emphasized that this landfill is free for residential use, so there is no reason for people to be using the valley as a dumping ground.
As to how the group has gotten to where it is today, Muello acknowledged that the first summer was a rough one as she strove to build momentum. As awareness has grown, however, the group has become a solid part of the Pahrump nonprofit scene.
Clean Up Pahrump was originally a nonprofit in its own right but when Muello was planning to move back to New England in 2022, she made preparations for the group to continue on without her. She contacted Phil Wooley with Desert Pigs in Dayton to see about a possible partnership. Clean Up Pahrump then became an official chapter of the Desert Pigs. Jason Dobson also stepped into the leadership role.
“She put a really good team around me,” Dobson told the Times, adding, “And it’s just fun. It’s a one-sheet volunteer form, a free T-shirt and off you go. It’s not hard to do and you don’t have to dedicate your whole life to it. Just come when you can and together we can get a lot of good work done.”
Muello, missing the sunshine of Pahrump, has since relocated and she is delighted to be back at work improving the valley.
The volunteer base for Clean Up Pahrump fluctuates, Muello and Dobson remarked, with some longtime volunteers, others who are one-timers and still others who come off and on, when they have availability. Even fellow community entities have offered their time. Clean Up Pahrump has forged a partnership with the Nevada Dept. of Transportation, too, by adopting two stretches of highly-trafficked highway.
“We have adopted Highway 372 from Bolling to Linda and on Highway 160 from Gravelpit Road down to 775 Realty, near Calvada,” Cheryl Varkalis, who headed up the Adopt-A-Highway initiative, explained. “NDOT provides the orange garbage bags and when we’re done, they come and pick the bags up, which gives Jason a break from getting the trailer and making a dump run. It was super easy to get started and the only thing we have to do is make the trip to Vegas to get the supplies!”
Clean Up Pahrump aims to do a highway clean-up once a month, alternating between highways and volunteers are always welcome. However, per NDOT regulations, volunteers must be 18 years of age or older.
For those who can’t participate on Saturday mornings, the Clean Up Pahrump crew encourages them to take part on their own schedule by simply getting out whenever and wherever they can.
“I know not everyone can get out Saturday morning so we’ve come up with a little raffle,” Muello said. “Anyone who goes out, cleans up some trash and posts on our Facebook page, we’ll enter them into our monthly door raffle.”
Raffles were given out that morning as well, with gift certificates handed out to a couple of lucky volunteers.
Anyone interested in lending a hand or donating can visit CleanUpPahrump.org or visit the Clean Up Pahrump Facebook page.
Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at firstname.lastname@example.org